Monday, August 13, 2007

Marilynne Robinson: Housekeeping

Marilynne Robinson's Housekeeping is one of my favorite coming of age novels. Set in the early 1900's in rural Idaho, it is the story of Ruth and her sister Lucille. The two girls are tragically abandoned by their mother and left to be cared for by their grandmother, then their great-aunts, and finally, by their uncommon aunt Sylvie whose calm but transient nature is both refreshing and unnerving.

This is a story about family and impermanence and loss. It's also a story about beauty and awakening and breathless discovery. And the intense longing we have for home, with all the different, intensely complicated things that simple word can mean.

It's hard for me to describe how absolutely lovely this book is. Much of what I admire about Marilynne Robinson's writing is the subtle, quiet beauty of the prose. The scenes unfold slowly, with infinite care and delicacy. Housekeeping is melancholy and chilling, but with a touch of humor and warmth. The relationship of the sisters is heartbreakingly real. Ruth and Lucille grow together and grow apart in a way that is subtle and natural, and their responses to the world around them are honest and true.

You can read a small, beautiful snippet from Housekeeping at John Baker's blog. And his synopsis is quite a bit more clear and concise than mine. Of course, I couldn't agree more with his final statement: "I would recommend that you go out and get a copy straight away."

No doubt there will be a future post about Ms. Robinson's newest masterpiece, Gilead, which I also have very strong feelings for.

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