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 third novel, and second returning to the Iowan home of ministers John Ames and Robert Boughton, is a conflict between the responsible father and his prodigal son. Robinson's style is old-fashioned, puzzling over timeless concerns like faith and responsibility. Maggi-Meg Reed is perfectly amenable, retreating into the audio attic and retrieving some of the creakier techniques: a singsong cadence, a hoarse Yankee assurance a Walter Brennanesque tone for the Reverend Boughton. That these work so well is testament to Reed, who offered an excellent reading of The Time Traveler's Wife. It is also a sign of the essential rightness of this particular reading for Robinson's novel. In writing of clergymen and faith, Robinson's prose is near-biblical; Reed's voice conveys a similar depth of feeling and simplicity of expression. A Farrar, Straus & Giroux hardcover (Reviews, June 30). (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
This masterful, hauntingly beautiful audiobook transpires concurrently in the same locale as Robinson's Pulitzer Prize-winning "Gilead." Unabridged. 10 CDs.
A moving novel about families, family secrets, and the passing of the generations from the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist who brought us Gilead.
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.
Reading Group Guide
Questions for Discussion
1. What does “home” mean to Robert Boughton and his children? What does the Boughton house signify to his family? With whom do they feel most at home?
2. How does Glorys opinion of Jack change throughout the novel? What enables them to trust each other? In what ways is that trust strained? How does their relationship compare to yours with your siblings?
3. How is the Boughton household affected by the presence of a television set? How does this reflect a shift that took place in many households throughout America in the 1950s? Were you surprised by Robert Boughtons comments about African Americans, and by his reaction to the televised race riots?
4. Why do you think Robert loves Jack best, despite Jacks shortcomings? What is your understanding of Jacks wayward behavior? How would you have responded to his theological questions regarding redemption?
5. Discuss the friendship between John Ames and Robert Boughton. What has sustained it for so many years? How did they nurture each others intellectual lives, approaching life from Congregationalist and Presbyterian perspectives?
6. What did Glorys mother teach her about the role of women? How was the Boughton family affected by the death of its matriarch?
7. How do the Boughtons view prosperity and charity? What is reflected in the way Glory handles the household finances, with leftover money stored in the piano bench? What is the nature of Jacks interest in Marxism? What is demonstrated in the incident of the book on Englands working classes (the stolen library volume that Robert Boughton considered dull)?
8. How do the themes of deception and integrity play out in the novel? Are all of the characters honest with themselves? Which secrets, in the novel and in life, are justified?
9. What does Jack do with the memory of his out-of-wedlock daughter? Does his father have an accurate understanding of that chapter in Jacks life?
10. How are Glory, Jack, and Robert affected by Teddys visit? What accounts for the “anxiety, and relief, and resentment” Glory feels regarding Teddys arrival (p. 253)?
11. Discuss Amess provocative sermon, which Jack paraphrases as a discussion of “the disgraceful abandonment of children by their fathers” (p. 206) based on the narrative of Hagar and Ishmael. To what degree are parents responsible for the actions of their children, and vice versa?
12. What aspects of romantic love are reflected in Home? How does Glory cope with her ill-fated engagement? Is Jack very different from Glorys fiancé? What do the Boughtons think of John Amess marriage to Lila?
13. How did you react to Dellas arrival? What legacy and memories will define her son? What common ground did Jack and Della share, fostering love?
14. Hymns provide a meaningful background throughout the novel. What do their words and melodies convey?
15. In terms of religion, what beliefs do Glory, Jack, and Robert agree upon? What do they seek to know about God and the nature of humanity? What answers do they find?
16. What distinctions did you detect between the way John Ames described Jack in Gilead and the portrayal of Jack in Home? What are the similarities and differences between the Ames and Boughton households? What accounts for the fact that families can inhabit nearly identical milieux but experience life in profoundly different ways?
17. Do towns like Gilead still exist? Are pastors like Ames and Boughton common in contemporary America?
18. Discuss the homecomings that have made a significant impact on your life. How much forgiveness has been necessary across the generations in your family?