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Home: A Novel Paperback – September 1, 2009
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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 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 out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
"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.
The story is anchored around Jack and his relationship with his Father - a kind, graceful, forgiving man - who is elated to have his son home to settle his longstanding worries and concerns - yet other concerns have now surfaced - including how to deal with Jack's restlessness, his troubling "behaviors" - and finally his concern over Jack leaving again and being out of reach of help.
"I thanked God for him every day of his life, no matter how much grief, how much sorrow - and at the end of it all there is only more grief, more sorrow, and his life will go on that way, no help for it now. You see something beautiful in a child, and you almost live for it, you feel as though you would die for it, but it isn't yours to keep or protect. And if the child becomes a man who has no respect for himself, it's just destroyed till you can hardly remember what it was - it's like watching a child die in your arms. (He looked at Jack.) Which I have done."
1) One of the best books I have read. A sad but hauntingly beautiful book (or perhaps better described as a work of art) by a writer who is in a professional class of her own. I couldn't put it down.
2) Beautiful, crystal clear images and plain spoken prose.
"And there was an oak tree in front of the house, much older than the neighborhood or the town, which made rubble of the pavement at its foot and flung its imponderable branches out over the road and across the yard, branches whose girth were greater than the trunk of any ordinary tree. There was a torsion in its body that made it look like a giant dervish to them. Their father said if they could see as God can, in geological time, they would see it leap out of the ground and turn in the sun and spread its arms and bask in the joys of being an oak tree in Iowa."
3) Not for everyone. Slow Pace. Thin Plot. Deep Character insights.
If you are looking for in-your-face suspense thriller, murder mysteries, car crashes, this book won't be for you. This is quiet, gentle, artful prose that carries your interest like a gentle breeze on a warm summer day. You can feel your heart beat slow as you turn the pages - yet she pulls you along a slow moving river, wanting to see what's around the next bend - and often times it is a peek into what the characters think and feel.
4) Feels like the application of a soothing balm over a sore that won't heal.
Novel highlights the imperfections of man. The beauty, strength and pain of unconditional love. The binds of family and friends. How belief and doubt affect our daily lives. How leading the simplest life can be touched by grace, wonder and heart ache.
This is a genius work by a master craftsperson. I was sorry for the story to come to an end.
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. One essential revelation from GILEAD is postponed to the very last pages of HOME, so that readers who come to this book first may find the ending even more moving. For Jack, with his mixture of outward charm and inner despair, becomes a character to care for. We follow his spiritual trajectory over the next few months first with hope, then with joy, then with sympathy. This is a sad book, but by no means a bleak one.
Are there really two novels to be found in Gilead in 1956? Not quite; more like one and three-quarters. But this second book, though perhaps overlong, is entirely absorbing in its own right, and surprisingly different from its predecessor. GILEAD was a vertical book, having to do with four generations of fathers and sons, and with man's relationship to God; HOME is a horizontal one, focusing on the relationship between brother and sister, and the accumulation of memories, custom, and duties that make a home a home, whether a solace or a burden. GILEAD was broad in scope, reaching back to the Civil War and denying the apparent isolation of its characters in place and time; HOME turns inward, presenting the outside world merely as something lurking on the periphery. I was going to say that while GILEAD is primarily a religious work, HOME is a secular one, but that is not quite true; HOME does not quite have the luminous spirituality of GILEAD, yet GILEAD also seems the more down-to-earth of the two books. This reduction in range made me question giving HOME its fifth star -- and yet why not, since it pales only by comparison with GILEAD, which was a six-, seven-, or ten-star book if there ever was one?
Marilynne Robinson continues to write shining prose that compels you to keep reading, common sense expressed with scriptural overtones, as in this passage where John Ames contemplates how his friend Reverend Boughton must feel in his retirement: "The Sunday-school children were marrying, and the married couples had settled into difficult, ordinary life, and the grave old men and women who had taught the Sunday-school children about bands of angels and flying chariots were themselves crossing over Jordan one by one." If this seems as beautiful to you as it does to me, you will enjoy this moving and deeply understanding novel.
But "Home" is a solid five stars compared to virtually every other recent novel I've read recently. It ranks slightly better than Gilead (Robinson's other novel in this group), since "Home"'s family story, with its quiet but pronounced tension, is more compelling and interesting to me.
I strongly recommend all three novels in this series set in Gilead, Iowa, but I recommend reading them in this order, even though it is slightly out of plot chronology: "Gilead," "Home," then "Lila." All three stand perfectly well on their own, but for the full impact of Robinson's prodigious talent, all three need to be savored. This is modern literary fiction at its best, perfectly competent in craft with a razor-honed focus on character nuance over lurid plot drama. I cannot think of any single author responsible for three such fine novels—unless you go back to the classics of the 20s and 30s from writers like Willa Cather, Faulkner, Thomas Wolfe.