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Home – Marilynne Robinson

Having read and loved Gilead I put Home on my Christmas list – I wasn’t disappointed.

Here is the description from the publisher …

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.

This novel is about family (the ties that bind), spirituality (in particular Presbyterianism) and parenting. Jack returns home after an absence, and silence, of twenty years. He is an alcoholic who has spend time in prison. His is a lonely soul who hasn’t been able to make a connection with his family – at most family gatherings (even as a child) he was absent. His father appears to love his ‘lost sheep’ more than his other seven children.

This is a beautifully crafted story – every word seems chosen with care. It seems such a simple tale; ne’er do well son returns home, tries to reconcile or at least understand (and possibly believe) his father’s faith and tries to  develop a relationship with  Amos his father’s best friend. However, I find myself thinking about the characters; what will happen to Jack and Glory, will he stay sober? Will he find grace? The characters are beautifully realised; the gentlemanly Robert who has spent his life pondering the great religious questions, Glory a pious, vulnerable woman who has returned home and can see her life stretching out forever in the old house (never able to change anything) and finally Jack searching for something, always disappointing someone.

The Boughton’s are religious – Robert was a Presbyterian minister –  and there seems to have been much discussion about grace, judgement and punishment. Jack and Robert spend a lot of time thinking about god’s purpose  and Jack in particular wonders whether some people are just born  doomed (predestination). Ewen MacDonald (Lucy Maud Montgomery’s husband) seemed to think he was eternally doomed as well (according to The Gift of Wings).

I think this book is fabulous, but I wonder if people unfamiliar with harsh judgemental Anglican religions will understand.


Filed under Recommended, Serious