Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Home: A Novel

Published Sept. 2, 2008.
Marilynne Robinson has written very few novels, only three. However, they are all prize winners. Her second novel Gilead won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2005.  This novel focuses on Rev. John Ames and his efforts to leave a legacy for his very young son from a second marriage.

After reading Gilead, I learned that she wrote a sequel, or really a parallel novel, Home.  This novel describes the life of another family in Gilead, Iowa: Rev. Robert Boughton and his adult children Glory and Jack.

Like Gilead, this novel is quiet and understated.  The main action takes place when Jack returns home after a twenty year absence. Once he arrives, his father and sister start to review events from decades past.

Everyone takes an account of their lives.  And the three of them have to establish a new dynamic.   The tension in the air is palpable as they work out a new routine in their old home.

For Glory, she thinks about her childhood and her long engagement that eventually fell through. And she despairs that her lot is to support others rather than to focus on her own goals.  She has moved in with her father to care for him as he declines. And now she's caring for Jack, who is falling apart in mind, body and spirit.

Jack appears to have a devil-may-care attitude. He's made trouble for everyone around him since he was a youth. Nevertheless, his dying father hopes that his return means he is ready for redemption.  Much of the novel asks questions about Jack's character.  Can he change? Does he want to change? Will others give him the opportunity to change?

At midlife, Jack's looks and his charm are fading.  Is he too spent to sew any more wild oats? Can the Christian ideals of repentance and forgiveness really work? Or are these ideals better expressed in the pages of the Bible rather than in the walls of his childhood home?

If you want to watch people in their twilight years conduct a life review and seek reconciliation, you will be interested in reading about the reverent's efforts to reunite with Jack. If you want to watch midlife people stand back and determine whether or not their life is on the correct course for achieving their dreams, you will be interested in reading about Glory and Jack.

I found it painful at times and hopeful at times to observe these three family members work to transcend dramatic differences in personality and values in order to maintain relationships over time.  But it was a thoughtful book about what matters most to people as they make an account of their lives.


Novels about Men Facing Death
Books on Aging
Movies about Mature Men Preserving Power

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