Early Warning

Early Warning

by Jane Smiley

Overview: Early Warning opens in 1953 with the Langdon family at a crossroads. Their stalwart patriarch, Walter, who with his wife, Rosanna, sustained their farm for three decades, has suddenly died, leaving their five children, now adults, looking to the future. Only one will remain in Iowa to work the land, while the others scatter to Washington, D.C., California, and everywhere in between.

As the country moves out of post–World War II optimism through the darker landscape of the Cold War and the social and sexual revolutions of the 1960s and ’70s, and then into the unprecedented wealth—for some—of the early 1980s, the Langdon children each follow a different path in a rapidly changing world. And they now have children of their own: twin boys who are best friends and vicious rivals; a girl whose rebellious spirit takes her to the notorious Peoples Temple in San Francisco; and a golden boy who drops out of college to fight in Vietnam—leaving behind a secret legacy that will send shock waves through the Langdon family into the next generation.

Capturing a transformative period through richly drawn characters we come to know and care deeply for, Early Warning continues Smiley’s extraordinary epic trilogy, a gorgeously told saga that began with Some Luck and will span a century in America. But it also stands entirely on its own as an engrossing story of the challenges—and rewards—of family and home, even in the most turbulent of times, all while showcasing a beloved writer at the height of her considerable powers.

Faith Bowers (06/25/15): Early Warning is part 2 of the trilogy. The lives continue for second generation of the Langdons from 1952-1986. Frank continues to search for a purpose in life but enjoys his connections financially. His wife does fall apart and as a result their kids with all that money have a tough time.

Lillian fares better though her marriage to Arthur Manning who has a very high stress government job throughout his life. He de-stresses the best he can through his family. Since this is the mid 20th century they still smoke and do not exercise. The Manning family deals with the Vietnam War in a personal way.

Farming is still a tough job, though Joe loves what he does and has his mother near by. Claire does grow up and Henry finds himself. Smiley has us experience San Francisco through the 60s and 70s with another branch of the family as well as a family experience with the Moonies. I liked Some Luck better because the challenges in their lives are from historical and economic influences. In Early Warning the family challenges and mistakes are more self induced from excess. A theme of hard work that pays off and excess doesn't necessarily help your life would be an ongoing theme for the two books.
Rating: ****

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