Early Warning
Author: Jane Smiley
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf, 2015
Genre: Novel
Hardcover Edition: 476 pages
Source: Library copy

Early Warning continues the story of an Iowa family, the Langdons. In this volume the many offspring of Walter and Rosanna Langdon migrate across the country, mostly to American cities. There is never a dull moment as the story moves from the toll of CIA intrigue to rebellious teenagers. Who knew the years 1953 to 1986 could be so fascinating?

The characters are finely drawn, riveting in the changes they experience. This is realistic fiction with an exclamation point. The sharp details are grounded in reality and utterly telling. Who is most interesting? Who surprises the reader most? It’s almost like a parlor game, and yet I cared about each character by the novel’s close. And oh, I hated to leave them when I had read the last page. Much changes and shifts for these characters, as it does in our own lives.

Raising children interests many readers and it interests author Jane Smiley and the Langdons to a remarkable degree. The details of child-raising hold center stage. I venture to say this author writes children better than any other and she does it in context, as opposed to a 10 or 12 year old voice knowing and dominating all as in much recent fiction. The structure of this novel focuses us on this character and then, that one, as they raise families in different places. Similar to the first book, each chapter takes the reader to the next year and within each chapter are scenes, so detailed and clear you feel a part of the far-flung family in different places and experiencing different events.

With this trilogy we see a big picture of the small parts individuals play in life’s drama. Oh, I can’t wait for the next book. This trilogy is a not-to-be-missed family saga.

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