Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Marilynne Robinson's Home

Last weekend I read Marilynne Robinson’s newest book, Home. I’m a Robinson fan having first encountered Housekeeping in college and then her brilliant book, Mother Courage, while researching anti-nuclear writings. Mother Courage is really an under recognized book. When Robinson’s book Gilead was published, to the acclaim of critics and readers all around (it was eventually awarded the Pulitzer Prize), I was eager to read it and while I enjoyed it and marveled at what an incredible prose stylist and storyteller Robinson is, I wasn’t profoundly in love with Gilead. I am, however, profoundly in love with Home. This book is the finely-crafted storytelling that I remember from Housekeeping. It is filled with characters that are interesting and sympathetic. Robinson’s pacing and control of plot is astounding. I was riveted by the book from the minute I started and so in love with her writing that I took breaks from reading just to make it last. Robinson grounds this book in a very particular year and historical moment without directly telling the reader what that time is but still letting it be exposed by the thinking and words of the characters while simultaneously spinning a tale that seems transcendent - even timeless. This is part of her power as a writer. Perhaps my affection for and joy about this book is a consequence of truly enjoying one of the central characters, Glory, who at thirty-eight finds herself returned to the home where she grew up to care for her ill father. I found Glory an incredible character and her struggles and questions profoundly resonant. If you haven’t read Robinson, start with Home and then explore her other works. If you already know Housekeeping and Mother Courage, but haven’t read the two most recent books, skip Gilead and embrace Home.

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