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Home: A Novel Hardcover
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"Children of Blood and Bone"
Tomi Adeyemi conjures a stunning world of dark magic and danger in her West African-inspired fantasy debut. Pre-order today
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Amazon Best of the Month, September 2008: "What does it mean to come home?" In one way or another, every character in Home is searching for that answer. Glory Boughton, now 38 and lovelorn, has returned to Gilead to care for her dying father. Her wayward brother Jack also finds his way back, though his is an uneasy homecoming, reverberating with the scandal that drove him away twenty years earlier. Glory and Jack unravel their stories slowly, speaking to each other more in movements than in words--a careful glance here, a chair pulled out from the table there--against a domestic backdrop so richly imagined you may be fooled into believing their house is your own. Meanwhile, their father, whose ebullient love for his children is a welcome counterpoint to Glory and Jack's conflicted emotions, experiences his own kind of reckoning as he yearns to understand his troubled son. There is a simplicity to this story that belies the complexity of its characters--they are bound together by a profound capacity for love and by an equally powerful sense of private conviction that tries the ties that bind, but never breaks them. It's a delicate sort of tension that you think would resist exposition--and in fact these characters seem to want nothing more than, as Glory says, to treat "one another's deceptions like truth"--but Marilynne Robinson's fine, tender prose imbues this family's secrets with an overwhelming grace. --Anne Bartholomew
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Robinson's beautiful new novel, a companion piece to her Pulitzer Prize–winning Gilead, is an elegant variation on the parable of the prodigal son's return. The son is Jack Boughton, one of the eight children of Robert Boughton, the former Gilead, Iowa, pastor, who now, in 1957, is a widowed and dying man. Jack returns home shortly after his sister, 38-year-old Glory, moves in to nurse their father, and it is through Glory's eyes that we see Jack's drama unfold. When Glory last laid eyes on Jack, she was 16, and he was leaving Gilead with a reputation as a thief and a scoundrel, having just gotten an underage girl pregnant. By his account, he'd since lived as a vagrant, drunk and jailbird until he fell in with a woman named Della in St. Louis. By degrees, Jack and Glory bond while taking care of their father, but when Jack's letters to Della are returned unopened, Glory has to deal with Jack's relapse into bad habits and the effect it has on their father. In giving an ancient drama of grace and perdition such a strong domestic setup, Robinson stakes a fierce claim to a divine recognition behind the rituals of home. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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"Home" is beautifully written, and compellingly plotted, despite the fact that not all that much actually happens -- on the outside, at least. The book is about love, and the failure of love to solve everything, and forgiveness, and race. It is also very specifically about religion, specifically the Protestantism of the mainstream American sects. I think this is a book readers will love, or dislike intensely. Give it a try.
1. I was disappointed to see this other, peevish, nasty side of Rev. Ames.
2. I didn't like the Rev. Boughton very much at all.
3. Jack is tedious and pathetic.
4. Glory almost breaks free but then doesn't.
Robinson really makes me wait for it, building my conflict between compassion and resentment for Jack. And just when I lose faith in him, there's a scene where the old misogynist/bigot Rev. Boughton asks to see Jack and his brother together in his room, and Jack insists Glory be included. As if he sees her as an equal to the men, rather than just the servant her father expects.
In this, I felt Jack himself was a Rorschach test for the reader, in that while he seems almost feral, a man born without skin with which to hide himself from the world, easily wounded and always untrusting, you want to abandon him, but can you? If so, who are you? What are your values - what are your limits?
So now Glory has decided to stop being codependent with her "fiancé", and switch her ministrations and self-sacrifice to her dying father and her feral brother. This is an arc? This is growth? What is Robinson's meaning, at the end of the story, when Glory decides to stay in a town she has said she hates, in a house she agrees to preserve as a monument/mausoleum to the family? It can only be read as failure to respect oneself in favor of service to others! This troubles me deeply.
I apologize for the length of this next excerpt, but I have to reproduce it, because it's so telling:
"(Glory) had tried to take care of (Jack), to help him, and from time to time he had let her believe she did. That old habit of hers, of making a kind of happiness for herself out of the thought that she could be his rescuer, when there was seldom much reason to believe that rescue would have any particular attraction for him. That old illusion that she could help her father with the grief Jack caused, the grief Jack was, when it was as far beyond her power to soothe or mitigate as the betrayal of Judas Iscariot. She had been alone with her parents when Jack left, and she had been alone with her father when he returned. There was a symmetry in that that might have seemed like design to her and beguiled her with the implication that their fates were indeed intertwined. Or returning herself to that silent house might simply have returned her to a s state of mind more appropriate to her adolescence. A lonely schoolgirl at thirty-eight. Now, there was a painful thought.
"She recalled certain moments in which she could see that Jack had withdrawn from her and was looking through or beyond her, making some new appraisal of her trustworthiness, perhaps, or her usefulness, or simply and abruptly losing interest in her together with whatever else happened just then...She found no consistency in these moments, nothing she could interpret. He was himself. That is what their father had always said, and by it he had meant that Jack was jostled along in the stream of (the family's) vigor and purpose and their good intentions, their habits and certitudes, and was never really a part of any of it. He had eaten their food and slept beneath their roof, wearing the clothes and speaking the dialect of their slightly self-enamored and distinctly clerical family..."
God! Who hasn't known people like this - men like this, children like this - who take and take and take from an ever-hopeful spouse or family and yet never seem quite able to be satisfied, or fulfilled, or happy! When all the sacrificial loving family member ever wants is for that feral person to be happy. Or at least safe.
Like I said, Rorschach.
And in this, I have to admit, Robinson delivers again, most profoundly, in pulling back the curtains and showing us, right down to the faint beat of a pulse along a pale wrist, the impact on a family of such a lone wolf. Not that the wolf doesn't suffer. Not that we don't all feel empathy as we struggle to surface from this mire, gulping and gasping air, sorry for Glory who remains below, yet intent on saving ourselves.
Lynne Spreen, author of the award-winning midlife novel Dakota Blues