Book Review: The Year We Left Home

The year we left homeJean Thompson, The Year We Left Home: A Novel. This novel has seventeen chapters told from seven points of view. It’s the story of four siblings in an Iowa family, and events span a thirty-year period, from 1973 to 2003. Although it is primarily written in close third person, one of the later chapters veers into omniscience, showing the reader a poem that the POV character doesn’t read (it’s in a magazine in the house he has just left). To reveal the authorial hand so clearly takes cojones, in my opinion, and in this case it works.

How does Thompson attach the reader so firmly to this set of characters? Well, her prose is terrific—characterization, pacing, dialogue, setting. But that can’t be what makes this book almost unputdownable. I think the key is that anything can happen, and does. Nobody is safe. So the distance that comes from switching POVs is countered by the reader’s urgent need to find out what’s going to happen—especially as we become more invested in the family’s story.

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