Lila – Marilynne Robinson

Lila - Marilynne Robinson

Lila – Marilynne Robinson

I enjoyed both Gilead and Homeso I was always going to read Lila. Here is the blurb …

Marilynne Robinson, one of the greatest novelists of our time, returns to the town of Gilead in an unforgettable story of a girlhood lived on the fringes of society in fear, awe, and wonder.
Lila, homeless and alone after years of roaming the countryside, steps inside a small-town Iowa church—the only available shelter from the rain—and ignites a romance and a debate that will reshape her life. She becomes the wife of a minister, John Ames, and begins a new existence while trying to make sense of the days of suffering that preceded her newfound security.
Neglected as a toddler, Lila was rescued by Doll, a canny young drifter, and brought up by her in a hardscrabble childhood. Together they crafted a life on the run, living hand-to-mouth with nothing but their sisterly bond and a ragged blade to protect them. But despite bouts of petty violence and moments of desperation, their shared life is laced with moments of joy and love. When Lila arrives in Gilead, she struggles to harmonize the life of her makeshift family and their days of hardship with the gentle Christian worldview of her husband that paradoxically judges those she loves.
Revisiting the beloved characters and setting of Marilynne Robinson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Gilead and Home, a National Book Award Finalist,Lila is a moving expression of the mysteries of existence that is destined to become an American classic.

Marilynne Robinson is one of my favourite authors. I can’t remember how I stumbled across Gilead (it was pre-blog), but I have been hooked ever since. Coincidently, I read  a quote by Helen Garner this morning about Robinson

I like quite books by writers who respect the texture of dailiness and convey it in sentences of syntactical balance and power. If mighty events occur in these works, they don’t shirt front you, but rumble softly under your feet. Amercian writer Marilynne Robinson’s Lila rounds of her two great novels Gilead and Home into a superbly executed trilogy. Like her characters a mid-western Calvinist lives thrillingly real without a single preachy word.

This is a beautifully written novel – the characters are superb. This book made me think about how we know what we know. At one stage Lila was suprised to hear she lived in a country called the United States of America and, really, unless someone tells you (or teaches you) how do you learn these basic facts? Lila’s early life is one of hard ship and drudgery, but she is content. It is only when Doll and her part ways that her life appears hard to her – she is desperately lonely, but trusts no one (probably with good cause). Once in Gilead, befriended by the Preacher (whom she marries) she finds kindness, but she is always suspicious. Lila is quite a literal character and there are lots of discussions (between her and John Ames) about the bible and what it means. This all sounds a bit simple (and a bit boring), but this is a remarkable novel that will make question assumptions of identity, religion, community and education.

I don’t think it is necessary to read the novels in order, but I think reading Gilead before Lila might enable a fuller understanding of both novels.

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