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Home: A Novel Paperback – September 1, 2009

4.0 out of 5 stars 377 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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 alternate Paperback edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Robinson's third novel, and second returning to the Iowan home of ministers John Ames and Robert Boughton, is a conflict between the responsible father and his prodigal son. Robinson's style is old-fashioned, puzzling over timeless concerns like faith and responsibility. Maggi-Meg Reed is perfectly amenable, retreating into the audio attic and retrieving some of the creakier techniques: a singsong cadence, a hoarse Yankee assurance—a Walter Brennanesque tone—for the Reverend Boughton. That these work so well is testament to Reed, who offered an excellent reading of The Time Traveler's Wife. It is also a sign of the essential rightness of this particular reading for Robinson's novel. In writing of clergymen and faith, Robinson's prose is near-biblical; Reed's voice conveys a similar depth of feeling and simplicity of expression. A Farrar, Straus & Giroux hardcover (Reviews, June 30). (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; Reprint edition (September 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312428545
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312428549
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.9 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (377 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #19,676 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By D. Kanigan VINE VOICE on September 6, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This story is set in the 1950's in a small rural town in Iowa (Gilead). Robert Boughton, a retired and aging minister, is in poor health. Glory Boughton, 38, his youngest daughter, has returned to Gilead to care for her dying father and to regroup after the failure of a longstanding relationship and the evaporation of her dreams of home, marriage and children.

"I am 38 years old, she would say to herself as she tidied up after supper. I have a master's degree. I taught high school English for 13 years. I was a good teacher. What have I done with my life? What has become of it? It is as if I had a dream of adult life and woke up from it, still here in my parents' house."

Jack Broughton, his father's most beloved son, also returns home after a twenty-year disappearance - looking for peace, forgiveness, a refuge and reconciliation - with his Father, his family and a community which he ran from after earning a reputation as a thief and a scoundrel.

"Jack was exceptional in every way he could be, including of course, truancy and misfeasance."

Glory and Jack unravel their personal histories slowly - one slight pull at a time on a large ball of string. The simplicity of the story is tied with tension, heartwarming and difficult memories, conflicted emotions and most of all - with love - among family members and Father to son. Glory and Jack slowly build a relationship while caring for their Father.
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Format: Hardcover
How simple it seems, that story of the Prodigal Son! The wanderer returns; his joyful father falls on his shoulder and orders the fatted calf to be killed; the stay-at-home sibling is resentful for a while, but presumably learns to deal with it. For the story stops there. There is no tomorrow. The Bible doesn't ask what happens in the weeks and months after that. Is the family happily reunited? Does the Prodigal never yearn to be off again? Where does life go from here? These are some of the many questions posed by Marilynne Robinson in her latest novel, HOME, a sister work to her Pulitzer Prize-winning GILEAD.

HOME is not a sequel to GILEAD, but a parallel novel, taking place in the same town (Gilead, Iowa), at exactly the same time (1956), and involving many of the same characters. Readers of the earlier novel will recall that the town has two elderly preachers, John Ames and Robert Boughton, close friends since childhood. In HOME, the action shifts from Ames' house to that of Boughton, a wonderful old man magnificently characterized through his way of talking, warmly benevolent with unexpected edges of granite. At the start of the book, his youngest daughter Glory, now 38, returns home to care for her father; she appears to be in retreat from problems of her own, but their nature only gradually becomes clear. A little later, Jack Boughton, the black sheep of the family, arrives after an absence of twenty years. Jack appears in GILEAD also; some of the information from the earlier book is revealed immediately, but we learn much more about his tormented life as the book goes on.
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Format: Hardcover
...to Gilead as one could hope for. And hope, it seems to me - hope realized, hope deferred, hope in spite of reality - is at the core of this book. I saw this book at an airport bookstore and as soon as I saw that it returned to Gilead (didn't even finish reading the jacket), I purchased it. However, it took me some time to open it, because frankly I was afraid that it might not be as good as Gilead, that something from the perfection of that book might be ruined in the attempt to return there.

I needn't have worried, nor should you, if you read and loved Gilead. The perfect ambiguity of Gilead's ending is preserved, and we learn more about all the characters that were most real to me - Robert, Glory, and Jack. We meet characters only alluded to previously, and what a wonder they are! As others have noted, it is a slow, deliberate novel - though certainly wordier and less spare than Gilead. But it is a slow, deliberate story, and one to take your time with.

And hope - we always return to it. What hope and wonder are displayed in this little book, even in the midst of alcoholism, depression, small-town drama, racial conflicts, dementia. Don't be confused, however, but it's not romantic, sentimental and syrupy hope. It is deeply, profoundly, faithful hope - more like what John Ames describes at the end of Gilead: "...whatever hope becomes after it begins to weary a little, then weary a little more." A good ending can make a novel, and this one casts a wonderful vision.
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Format: Hardcover
I am not going to repeat the plot, since many other reviewers have done so very competently. First let me say I am a Robinson fan. I think Gilead is one of the top ten books I have ever read. So imagine my disappointment when I finally found myself on the last page of Home, and closed the book with utter relief.

I believe that in Home, Robinson lost the writer's discipline she exercised so marvelously in Gilead. The characters never come to life. Jack is a kind of under-stated caricature of the "black-sheep" trying to redeem himself. I did not find him believable. He seemed to be another Ames/Boughten lightly clothed in the garb of a sinner. He was too decent, apologetic, and insightful to be any kind of black-sheep I have ever met. Glory is a caricature of the left-behind woman. She is allegedly intelligent and educated, and yearns for a different life, but for some reason is paralyzed and incapacitated. Both Jack and Glory seem almost embalmed in amber - but it is never clear why, and this is why the characters do not come alive for me. (Predestination?)

Beyond character development, there is dialogue, scene, and plot. On the matter of the first, the dialogue is fantastically tedious. Glory cries. Jack says he is sorry ad nauseum. On scene, there is just about one scene in the entire book. It is more like a play than a novel. The characters migrate from kitchen to bed to barn to living room, over and over again, with almost nothing changing each time the scene is revisited. Jack says something; it bothers his father; Jack apologizes; Glory weeps. Good grief. On plot, the prodigal son arrives sinful, he continues to sin, and he leaves a sinner. The father loves the son at the beginning, at the middle, and then loses his faculties so .. it is unclear.
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