Every year the Iowa Center for the Book (housed under Iowa LibraryServices) chooses a book for the All Iowa Reads Program. For 2013, their selection is “The Year We Left Home” by Jean Thompson. The All Iowa Reads program encourages all Iowans to read their selection and discuss the book. Many book clubs across the state read the same book.
I was particularly enthusiastic about this year’s selection as the story centers around an Iowa family. The different chapters are from different time periods from the 1970s on, and each is from a different family member’s perspective. The main family includes four siblings and starts just as each is coming of age. Some want to leave their small town in Iowa, while others want to start their own families and stay near home.
The pull of one’s familial roots versus the desire to see the world and get away from home is a compelling theme, and you can relate to both perspectives. There are tragedies and joys for each family regardless if you live on the farm or in a metropolitan area.
I enjoyed this book a great deal. I think that the Center for the Book committee picked a universally likeable title, and I hope to get to read more from the author.
Sonja Ferrell is the director of the Ottumwa Public Library.