Monday, December 1, 2008

Marilynne Robinson: Home

I had the pleasure of reading Marilynne Robinson's new book, Home, over the Thanksgiving holiday. We were visiting Kevin's family, and I appreciated being able to read this book in his childhood home with smells of turkey and gingerbread hovering in the air. Because this is a book about family and prodigal sons, and that concept we can't help but gloss over and fret about, blow out of proportion and take for granted: home.

"I just never knew another child who didn’t feel at home in the house where he was born," says Rev. Boughton about his troubled son, who has returned home shrouded in mystery after a 20 year absense.

For those who have read Robinson's previous Pulitzer-prize winning book, Gilead (a stunningly beautiful meditation on fathers, sons, friendship, and faith), these are familiar characters. In Gilead, the narrator is John Ames, an elderly Presbyterian preacher who is writing a final letter to his seven year old son. In Home, the narrator is Glory Boughton, the grown daughter of Rev. Boughton, John Ames' closest friend and confidant. Glory has come home to take care of her ailing father, and we are able to see many of the events that took place in Gilead through her eyes. The result is like looking through a prism. As events unfold, we are shown another angle, a new way to light the facts.

I'm a huge fan of Marilynne Robinson's slow, deliberate, and painstaking style. Like the lives of the Midwest families she writes about, there is a stillness to her prose that allows turmoil to churn slowly underneath. There are undercurrents of racism, bitterness, and ugliness that manage to run just below themes of love, faith, and healing.

I highly recommend Home. Now I have to go read Gilead again to re-absorb all the lovely details I've forgotten.

Here is the New York Times review of Home.
Here is an interview with Marilynne Robinson from The Paris Review.

1 comment:

jayne wells said...

Just found your post after just finishing Home. (And anxious to get back to Gilead!) Amazing books. Thanks for the review!