The Year We Left Home

A Novel

The Year We Left Home

A New York Times bestseller, The Year We Left Home is National Book Award finalist Jean Thompson’s mesmerizing, decades-spanning saga of one ordinary American family that captures the turbulent history of the country at large.

Named a New York Times Editors’ Choice, a People magazine “Pick of the Week,” and an Indie Next and Midwest Connections selection, The Year We Left Home is the career-defining novel that Jean Thompson’s admirers have been waiting for: a sweeping and emotionally powerful story of a single American family during the tumultuous final decades of the twentieth century.

Stretching from the early 1970s in the Iowa farmlands to suburban Chicago and across the map of contemporary America, The Year We Left Home follows the Erickson siblings as they confront prosperity and heartbreak, setbacks and triumphs, and seek their place in a country whose only constant seems to be breathtaking change. Ambitious and richly told, this is a vivid and moving meditation on our continual pursuit of happiness and an incisive exploration of the national character.
  • Simon & Schuster | 
  • 336 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781439175910 | 
  • May 2011
List Price $11.99 (price may vary by retailer)

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for The Year We Left Home includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Jean Thompson. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.

Introduction

Beginning in a small town in Iowa in 1973, The Year We Left Home follows one extended family through marriages, divorces, tragedy, and everyday life over a span of thirty years. Told from the perspectives of different characters across multiple generations, it provides a stirring, insightful look at how one family redefines happiness and relationships over the course of their lives. 

Topics & Questions for Discussion

1.       Early on in the novel, Ryan muses “what really counted was the life you made for yourself, and the person you decided to be.” (p. 11) Does this prove to be true? How does this play out in his life, and in the lives of his family members? How does this concept change for him?

2.       “Something in him always stood apart, and he was not who people assumed was.” (p. 27) How is this true for Ryan throughout the novel? How do the characters define themselves, and each other? see more

More Books from this Author

Do Not Deny Me
Throw Like A Girl
City Boy
Wide Blue Yonder

About the Author

Jean Thompson
Marion Ettlinger

Jean Thompson

Jean Thompson is a novelist and short story writer. Her works include the novels A Cloud in the Shape of a Girl, She Poured Out Her Heart, The Humanity Project, The Year We Left Home, City Boy, Wide Blue Yonder, The Woman Driver, and My Wisdom and the short story collections The Witch and Other Tales Re-Told, Do Not Deny Me, Throw Like a Girl, Who Do You Love (a National Book Award finalist), Little Face and Other Stories, and The Gasoline Wars. Thompson’s short fiction has been published in many magazines and journals, including the New Yorker, and anthologized in The Best American Short Stories and The Pushcart Prize. Thompson has been the recipient of Guggenheim and National Endowment for the Arts fellowships, among other accolades, and has taught creative writing at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Reed College, Northwestern University, and other colleges and universities. She lives in Urbana, Illinois.

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