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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]