Friday, October 10, 2008


Home is the most beautiful, touching book I have read in many years. In it, it is 1956 and Jack Boughton is returning home to Iowa after 20 years to live with his dying father, Rev. Robert Boughton, and his sister Glory. The story covers much of the same time period as Gilead, Marilynne Robinson’s earlier book that won the Pulitzer, and has an overlap of characters. I’d read Gilead and thought it was okay—a few good lines for sermons—but it didn’t move me in the way that this reshaped, refocused prodigal son story did. Perhaps it’s that the voice of Glory (who, even though the book is written in a third person voice, is really the narrator) works better with Robinson’s simple yet deeply layered writing that the narrative voice of Rev. John Ames (who narrates Gilead). Perhaps it’s the way in which the two ministers again and again got caught up in the theological issues around the questions that Jack asked but were completely unable to hear the earnest painful intent behind the questions. Maybe it’s that Jack could even hope that the town of Gilead might offer the possibility of a real home for his interracial family. It could be the way in which the prodigal son story is retold—but not quite—in a much more complicated way. Or perhaps it’s that the anguish and compassion interwoven into the lives of the Boughton family spoke more strongly to me than the lives of the Ames’ household, often leaving me with a lump in my throat or tears in my eyes. Or, more likely, it’s all of these in the eccentric way that Robinson weaves the varying storylines together into a narrative that seems so strange and yet so familiar.

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