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[297] Home – Marilynne Robinson

” Glory was aware suddenly that the weariness of the night and day had overwhelmed her, and her hope of comforting had not had anything to do with the way things really happen in the world. Her father was crouched in his chair, with his chin almost in his plate, drowsing and speaking from what she could only hope was a dream, and her brother was withdrawing into utter resignation, as if the old incandescence had consumed him before it flickered out. ” [281]

Home is set in 1960s Iowa, in the town of Gilead, against the political backdrop of civil right movement. Glory Boughton, age 38, has returned to Gilead to care for her dying father, Reverend Robert Boughton. Soon her brother Jack, the prodigal son, gone for twenty years, exposing the old man to the possibility of inexpressible disappointment, comes home with an unspoken agenda. Despite her feeling a special attachment to her brother at youth, his absence of two decades makes him a stranger, whose brusqueness of manner, wry elusiveness, and secretiveness make her all the more curious at his motive for his visit.

She had sometimes crossed streets to look into strangers’ faces for the satisfactions of resemblance, and met a cool stare or a guarded glance, not so unlike him, . . . She always knew how many years it was since she had last seen him, and she corrected against her memory of him because he was so young then. It was as if she had spent the years preparing herself to know him when she saw him, and here he was, tense and wary… [38]

Jack’s arrival provokes the reverend’s disquiet, who always feels responsible for his son’s loneliness and misery—didn’t do right by Jack. Much of the book revolves around this visit. What drives the novel forward, although Home is not plot-driven, is an affecting choreography of emotional terrains between brother and sister. There is no place here for the possessive clutch, the clinging arm, the heavy hand; only the barest touch in passing. Through their interactions, as they warm to one another, bits of their past and secrets are revealed. Perpetually in defiance with his surroundings, Jack, once an alcoholic and thief, comes home to make peace with a past that provokes discomfort in his family and that of his godfather, Ames. Also coming to terms with her grief is Glory, whose long engagement to a married man has left her jaded and hurt.

As a matter of courtesy they treated one another’s deceptions like truth, which was a different thing from deceiving or being deceived. In fact, it was a great part of the fabric of mutual understanding that made their family close. [232]

Home is a deeply affecting novel about family, family secrets, love, and forgiveness. In forging an intense bond with his sister, Jack Boughton has reconciled with his family and most importantly, brings his soul to a resting place, the ultimate home, after a lifetime more or less given over to dishonesty. Home is where he is embraced, the wrong forgiven and forgotten. Even if the wrong cannot be undone, he can at least show the greatest kindness and remorse by accepting the good intended for him.

325 pp. 1st Ed. hardback. [Read/Skim/Toss] [Buy/Borrow]

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17 Responses

  1. I loved her book Housekeeping, but I haven’t quite been drawn to her other two newer books. I think it is the religious aspect that has been putting me off, which is silly. She’ such a good writer I really need to look for her other books at the library!

    • I just realized Housekeeping was her first novel. Her next novel, Gilead, was 24 years after that. I’ve got the order all wrong and now I have to read Gilead.

  2. I want to read Gilead and this one too.

  3. BEAUTIFUL review! I had to read this book last year for class and while I enjoyed the book, your review has provided added depth which inspires me to read it again soon.

    • Many readers complain not much is happening in the book. I think it’s just beautifully written with so many nuances of human emotions and interactions.

  4. Like Kathleen, I want to read Gilead and this one as well – they sound like remarkable books.

  5. I haven’t read anything by Robinson, although there is no reason why except for there is never enough time! I will need to make an effort to read one of her books ASAP though. Great review!

    • So many books and so little time. I have held back on reading her for the longest time because the reviews are split in the middle. I absolutely love the way she focuses on the small lives of unremarkable and fallible individuals struggling to reconcile with one another.

  6. I enjoyed Housekeeping but haven’t read these two yet; I tried earlier this year, but it must have been a case of Wrong Book, Wrong Time for me. I will definitely try again.

  7. I really loved Gilead when I read it a few years ago, but I have been hesitant to pick up Home. Thanks for the nudge.

    • I was worried that I wouldn’t enjoy Home because the average rating of Gilead is higher. Now I know I have been so wrong and that I have waited so long to read her.

  8. So glad you liked this story. I’ve loved all of her novels. Can’t understand why people think Gilead or even Home are too religious for them. They’re not religious, but they are like most good literature, spiritual. I really hope you appreciate Gilead. Thanks for reviewing this.

  9. […] heard readers sing choruses of praises for her works. If readers find Marilynne Robinson’s Home lacking a plot (waiting for something to happen but it doesn’t), then the predecessor, […]

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