The Year We Left Home by Jean Thompson has been getting a lot of buzz. From the first paragraph I knew I would like this book.
The bride and the groom had two wedding receptions: the first was in the basement of the Lutheran church right after the ceremony, with the punch and cake and coffee and pasel mints. This was for those of the bride's relatives who were stern about alcohol. The basement was low-ceilinged and smelled of metallic furnace heat. Old ladies wearing corsages sat on folding chairs, while other guests stood and managed their cake plates and plastic forks as best they could. The pastor smiled with professional benevolence. The bride and groom posed for pictures, buoyed by adrenaline and relief. There had been so much promised and prepared, and now everything had finally come to pass (1).
This evokes such memories of my own childhood - the church Thompson describes could very well be the church of my early years.
The Ericksons live in Granada, Iowa, and in 1973 when the book begins, oldest daughter Anita is getting married to her boyfriend, Jeff. The other Ericksons are there for the big event as well. As time passes each Erickson becomes more well known as different chapters focuses on different members of the Erickson family and how their lives unfold. There are joys and tragedies, births and deaths during the three decades this book spans. I loved the Iowa setting and its familiarity. I loved that Thompson created a family who experienced the normal ups and downs in life, that seemed completely normal even when poor decisions are made or secrets uncovered.
I just finished this one this morning, and already recommended it to my sister who was visiting. Book clubs and lovers of women's fiction will find this one very enjoyable. Sometimes when there is a great deal of hype surrounding a book it is hard to live up to the reviews. The Year We Left Home definitely is as good all the reviews I've read.