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Home: A Novelby Marilynne Robinson
Set in the same time and place as Gilead, Marilynne Robinson's new masterpiece is at once profoundly sad and hopeful.
Where Gilead was an introspective masterpiece of reflection and contemplation, Home is a refreshingly honest portrait of familial relationships over time. Robinson carefully breathes life into these characters with each passing sentence, until by the end of the book you are completely immersed in the Boughton family's travails, and in love with every single one of them. Here is one family you'll never forget, written by an author who somehow manages (amazingly) to get better with each book.
"Home is a companion piece to Gilead, an account of the same time (the summer of 1956), in the same place (Gilead, Iowa), with the same cast of characters as the earlier novel. Each book is strengthened and deepened by a reading of the other. It is tempting, indeed, to liken them to the gospels, dovetailing versions of the same epiphanic experiences, each with its particular revelations, omissions, and emphases; except that instead of telling the stories of Christ, Robinson's novels tell those of the all-too-human antihero, the struggling prodigal son, Jack Boughton." Claire Messud, the New York Review of Books (read the entire New York Review of Books review)
Synopses & Reviews
Hundreds of thousands were enthralled by the luminous voice of John Ames in Gilead, Marilynne Robinson's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. Home is an entirely independent, deeply affecting novel that takes place concurrently in the same locale, this time in the household of Reverend Robert Boughton, Ames's closest friend.
Glory Boughton, aged thirty-eight, has returned to Gilead to care for her dying father. Soon her brother, Jack — the prodigal son of the family, gone for twenty years — comes home too, looking for refuge and trying to make peace with a past littered with tormenting trouble and pain.
Jack is one of the great characters in recent literature. A bad boy from childhood, an alcoholic who cannot hold a job, he is perpetually at odds with his surroundings and with his traditionalist father, though he remains Boughton's most beloved child. Brilliant, lovable, and wayward, Jack forges an intense bond with Glory and engages painfully with Ames, his godfather and namesake.
Home is a moving and healing book about families, family secrets, and the passing of the generations, about love and death and faith. It is Robinson's greatest work, an unforgettable embodiment of the deepest and most universal emotions.
"Robinson's beautiful new novel, a companion piece to her Pulitzer Prize-winning Gilead, is an elegant variation on the parable of the prodigal son's return. The son is Jack Boughton, one of the eight children of Robert Boughton, the former Gilead, Iowa, pastor, who now, in 1957, is a widowed and dying man. Jack returns home shortly after his sister, 38-year-old Glory, moves in to nurse their father, and it is through Glory's eyes that we see Jack's drama unfold. When Glory last laid eyes on Jack, she was 16, and he was leaving Gilead with a reputation as a thief and a scoundrel, having just gotten an underage girl pregnant. By his account, he'd since lived as a vagrant, drunk and jailbird until he fell in with a woman named Della in St. Louis. By degrees, Jack and Glory bond while taking care of their father, but when Jack's letters to Della are returned unopened, Glory has to deal with Jack's relapse into bad habits and the effect it has on their father. In giving an ancient drama of grace and perdition such a strong domestic setup, Robinson stakes a fierce claim to a divine recognition behind the rituals of home. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Marilynne Robinson's mournful new novel, "Home," is not a sequel or a prequel to her Pulitzer Prize-winning "Gilead" (2004) but rather a companion. And companionship, it turns out, is what all the lonely people in this book are seeking. Set in the same Iowa town, just a short distance from Rev. John Ames, the dying narrator of "Gilead," the events in "Home" take place concurrently with those of that... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) other novel. This time, however, we're in the house of Rev. Robert Boughton, Ames' longtime friend, who's equally close to putting on "imperishability." The publisher claims these two novels can be read separately, but that's not fair to the profound relationship between them nor, I think, to the way "Home" depends on its predecessor for detail and resonance. Indeed, as meditative and spare as "Gilead" is, it now seems downright hyperactive next to this ruminative new volume. Rev. Ames, you will recall, spiced his reflections on life and God with wild tales of his one-eyed grandfather, who rode with the abolition terrorist John Brown. There are deadly adventures in "Home," too, but they take place offstage, and they're never mentioned, only outlined by the pained silence of those who cannot forget. Almost all the physical movement of this story is exhausted in its opening pages with the return of Glory, the youngest of Boughton's eight children. Robinson writes in the third person, but we see the events that unfold over the following months in 1950 from Glory's point of view. Her father is overjoyed to see her, and neither of them mentions the collapsed engagement and abandoned career that have brought her back to live in her childhood house at the age of 38. "Nothing about that house ever did change," she thinks, "except to fade or scar or wear." Now, forced to abandon dreams of a husband and a child of her own, she's haunted by the question, "What does it mean to come home?" With so much nursing and housekeeping to be done, both of them can pretend that Glory has returned entirely for her father's sake. "She did not permit herself to brood, strong as the urge was sometimes," Robinson writes. "She could decide nothing about her life. She did not want to think about her life." Their quiet routine is soon interrupted by the return of another wayward Boughton child. The black sheep in this otherwise happy family, Jack was a petty thief and a brooding drunk who skipped town 20 years before, leaving behind his teenage girlfriend, a baby and a cloud of shame. During the intervening years, Jack continued to torture his parents by spurning every offer of assistance no matter how desperate his circumstances. When he finally returns — thin, pale, unkempt — Glory barely recognizes him. Though she once idolized him, now he seems to her "the weight on the family's heart, the unnamed absence, like the hero in a melancholy tale." But their father — a man of "tireless tenderness" — is giddy, thrilled by the possibility that his boundless love may finally open the heart of his wary, rueful child. This is a version of the Prodigal Son that picks up where the Gospel parable stops, after the extravagant feast, when the excitement of reunion fades in the awkwardness of the next day, and then the next. Robinson has constructed a plot so still that it seems at times more a series of tableaux than a novel. The tension in "Home" is palpable but invisible. Rev. Boughton, Glory and Jack move through domestic chores and hesitant conversations, fraught with the danger of confession or rapprochement or affection. Glory and her father are determined to make their love known to Jack, but the possibility of his bolting again renders them all timid and formal. "They had always been so careful of him," Robinson writes, "almost afraid to touch him. There was an aloofness about him more thoroughgoing than modesty or reticence. It was feral, and fragile." Jack is a man in the throes of a spiritual crisis, which Robinson captures with the most exquisite precision. An alcoholic clutching at the edges of sobriety, he's tempted to think he can clean himself up, but he's desperately afraid of failing, knowing that one more slip could kill both him and his long suffering father. With a mixture of affection, embarrassment and annoyance, he realizes that his father is "afraid to die because of me. To leave me behind, still unregenerate." Writing one novel about a minister's family is asking for trouble; writing a second seems downright unrepentant, the kind of misjudgment that could land a reputable literary author in a Christian bookstore or with a cozy series on the BBC. But Robinson, who teaches at the Iowa Writers' Workshop, is unlikely to suffer either fate; her books are toxic to sentimentality. Even more than their stylistic beauty, what's miraculous about "Gilead" and "Home" is their explicit focus on spiritual affliction, discussed in the hard terms of Protestant theology. Robinson uses the words "grace," "salvation" and "prayer" frequently and without embarrassment and without drifting into the gassy lingo of ecumenical spirituality. Her characters cower in the shadow of perdition. Though as a teenager Jack seemed to have paid no attention to his father's sermons, now, amid the ruins of his adult life, he's hypnotized by a sense of his worthlessness even as he feels "a certain spiritual hunger." Why, he wonders, could he never be a part of this wonderful family? What has drawn him again and again to hurt them and himself? "I don't really know what to do with myself," he tells Glory. "I'm a scoundrel." As a disquisition on the agonies of family love and serial disappointment, "Home" is sometimes too illuminating to bear. During a long, candid conversation that serves as the crisis of the novel, Jack's father confesses, "So many times, over the years, I've tried not to love you so much. I never got anywhere with it, but I tried." And then he manages to ask, without rancor of any kind, "What I'd like to know, is why you didn't love us. That is what has always mystified me." Although there's much sadness here, it's always cradled in Robinson's voice. "This life on earth is a strange business," she writes, but somehow that business sounds like a more familiar home in these discerning pages. Ron Charles is a senior editor of The Washington Post Book World. He can be reached at charlesr(at symbol)washpost.com. Reviewed by Ron Charles, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
(hide most of this review)
"Robinson wrestles with moral dilemmas ordinary and catastrophic....[A] rigorous, sometimes claustrophobic, yet powerfully spiritual novel of anguish and prayer, wisdom and beauty, penance and hope." Booklist
"Fans of Gilead will be grateful for this expansion of the story — and for its closing hint of a possible return to the extended Ames/Boughton families....Highly recommended." Library Journal
"[A] thoughtful, exceedingly patient, examination of the nature of grace and perdition. It's a measure of her abilities that, even though a reader knows precisely what's coming, she's able to break hearts all over again." The Christian Science Monitor
"One of the pleasures of reading Home is Robinson's light touch with what readers may already know from a sojourn in Gilead....If I cannot do Home justice in describing it, I can, at least, commend it to you with my whole heart." Los Angeles Times
"Not all that much happens in Home and yet the scenes are brilliantly delineated....This is the pleasure of Home: witnessing these people learn, painfully, to tend to the soul — their own souls and those of the ones they love." The Portland Oregonian
"Home lacks the fablelike intensity and visual, metaphoric dazzle of her much-loved first novel, Housekeeping....[A] static, even suffocating narrative in which very little is dramatized...and it makes the characters, especially Jack, seem terribly self-absorbed." Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
"If Home is a lesser novel than Gilead, it still calls up the surpassing gracefulness of Robinson's best writing, as well as its — there's no better word — spirit." The Chicago Sun-Times
The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Gilead pens a moving and healing book about families, family secrets, and the passing of the generations.
A moving novel about families, family secrets, and the passing of the generations from the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist who brought us Gilead.
WINNER OF THE ORANGE PRIZE 2009
A 2008 NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FINALIST
WINNER OF THE LOS ANGELES TIMES BOOK PRIZE
A New York Times Bestseller
A Washington Post Best Book of the Year
A Los Angeles Times Best Book of the Year
A San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of the Year
Hailed as "incandescent," "magnificent," and "a literary miracle" (Entertainment Weekly), hundreds of thousands of readers were enthralled by Marilynne Robinson's Gilead. Now Robinson returns with a brilliantly imagined retelling of the prodigal son parable, set at the same moment and in the same Iowa town as Gilead. The Reverend Boughton's hell-raising son, Jack, has come home after twenty years away. Artful and devious in his youth, now an alcoholic carrying two decades worth of secrets, he is perpetually at odds with his traditionalist father, though he remains his most beloved child. As Jack tries to make peace with his father, he begins to forge an intense bond with his sister Glory, herself returning home with a broken heart and turbulent past. Home is a luminous and healing book about families, family secrets, and faith from one of America's most beloved and acclaimed authors.
Hundreds of thousands were enthralled by the luminous voice of John Ames in Gilead, Marilynne Robinson's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. Home is an entirely independent, deeply affecting novel that takes place concurrently in the same locale, this time in the household of Reverend Robert Boughton, Ames's closest friend. Glory Boughton, aged thirty-eight, has returned to Gilead to care for her dying father. Soon her brother, Jack--the prodigal son of the family, gone for twenty years--comes home too, looking for refuge and trying to make peace with a past littered with tormenting trouble and pain. Jack is one of the great characters in recent literature. A bad boy from childhood, an alcoholic who cannot hold a job, he is perpetually at odds with his surroundings and with his traditionalist father, though he remains Boughton's most beloved child. Brilliant, lovable, and wayward, Jack forges an intense bond with Glory and engages painfully with Ames, his godfather and namesake. Home is a moving and healing book about families, family secrets, and the passing of the generations, about love and death and faith. It is Robinson's greatest work, an unforgettable embodiment of the deepest and most universal emotions. Marilynne Robinson is the author of the novels Gilead--winner of the Pulitzer Prize--and Housekeeping, and Home and two books of nonfiction, Mother Country and The Death of Adam. She teaches at the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop. Winner of the Orange PrizeA National Book Critics Circle Award FinalistA National Book Award Finalist
Winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize
Winner of the Christianity Today Book Award
A New York Times Book Review Notable Book
A Los Angeles Times Favorite Book of the Year
A San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of the Year
A Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Best Book of the Year
A Seattle Times Best Book of the Year
A Christian Science Monitor Best Book of the Year
A Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year
A Library Journal Best Book of the Year
Marilynne Robinson returns to the small town in Iowa where her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Gilead, was set. Home is an entirely independent novel that is set concurrently in the same locale, this time in the household of Reverend Robert Boughton, Ames's closest friend. Glory Boughton, aged thirty-eight, has returned to Gilead to care for her dying father. Soon her brother, Jack--the prodigal son of the family, gone for twenty years--comes home too, looking for refuge and trying to make peace with a past littered with ongoing trouble and pain. Jack, a bad boy from childhood, an alcoholic who cannot hold a job, is perpetually at odds with his surroundings and with his traditionalist father, though he remains Boughton's most beloved child. Brilliant, lovable, and wayward, Jack forges an intense bond with Glory and engages painfully with Ames, his godfather and namesake. Their story is one of families, family secrets, and the passing of the generations, about love, death, faith, and healing. It is a book unsparing in its acknowledgement of sin and unstinting in its belief in the possibility of grave. It is at once hard and forgiving, bitter and joyful, fanatical and serene. It is a wild, eccentric radical work of literature that grows out of the broadest, most fertile, most familiar native literary tradition. What a strange old book it is.--The New York Times Book Review
Home is a companion piece to Gilead, an account of the same time (the summer of 1956), in the same place (Gilead, Iowa), with the same cast of characters as the earlier novel. Each book is strengthened and deepened by a reading of the other . . . The two books, different in their form and approach as well as in the details they reveal and the stories they ultimately tell, are an enactment of humanity's broader dance of ever-attempted, ever-failing communication--through a glass darkly. This is not, of itself, a novel endeavor for the novel (Edith Wharton once wrote, with lyrical concise wit, 'I had the story, bit by bit, from various people, and, as generally happens in such cases, each time it was a different story'); rather it is the gravitas and patience with which Robinson, whose 1998 book of essays The Death of Adam revealed her rigorous Christian spiritual inquiry, has, in these two novels, channeled that rigor in fictional form; the result is two works of art of impressively unfashionable seriousness and engagement . . . Robinson, throughout Home, is tackling almost the opposite of what she undertook in Gilead: rather than granting a direct and illuminated voice to a single, thoughtful soul, she stands back--writing in the third person, albeit in a third person that privileges Glory's point of view--and allows her characters to perform their small daily rituals, to have their conversations, to live through their misunderstandings, each in his or her particular isolation. Crucially, she allows at least very distinct experiences--that of the devout, to which John Ames, Robert Boughton, and even Glory could be said to belong; and Jack's secular universe--to interact with one another, each with its own language and its own jurisprudence . . . What is remarkable about Home--and why it is, to this reader, an even stronger accomplishment than its companion volume; not in spite of its longueurs and its repetitiveness but because of them--is that it is both a spiritual and a mundane accounting.--Claire Messud, The New York Review of Books
Home is a book full of doubleness and paradox, at once serene and volcanic, ruthless and forgiving. It is an anguished pastoral, a tableau of decency and compassion that is also an angry and devastating indictment of moral cowardice and unrepentant, unacknowledged sin. It would be inaccurate to say that the novel represents yet another breathless expose of religious hypocrisy, or a further excavation of the dark secrets that s
About the Author
Marilynne Robinson is the author of the novels Gilead (FSG, 2004) — winner of the Pulitzer Prize — and Housekeeping (FSG, 1980), and two books of nonfiction, Mother Country (FSG, 1989) and The Death of Adam. She teaches at the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop.
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