Other Sellers on Amazon
+ $1.95 shipping
+ Free Shipping
Jack: A Novel Hardcover – September 29, 2020
|New from||Used from|
Inspire a love of reading with Amazon Book Box for Kids
Discover delightful children's books with Amazon Book Box, a subscription that delivers new books every 1, 2, or 3 months — new Amazon Book Box Prime customers receive 15% off your first box. Learn more.
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Frequently bought together
"For Marilynne Robinson’s devotees, John Ames Boughton, the titular Jack of the fourth volume of her award-winning Gilead novels, is one of the most eagerly awaited literary figures since Godot. . . Robinson is acclaimed for her numinous accounts of faith, forgiveness and hope, but read in this electrifying year of national crisis, the Gilead books are unified as well by her unsparing indictment of the American history of racism and inequality, and Christianity’s uneven will to fight them . . . I am looking forward to a fifth volume that will fill in their saga, and I hope it will be called Della.” ―Elaine Showalter, The New York Times Book Review
"Jack is the fourth novel in Robinson’s Gilead series, an intergenerational saga of race, religion, family, and forgiveness centered on a small Iowa town. But it is not accurate to call it a sequel or a prequel. Rather, this book and the others―Gilead, Home, and Lila―are more like the Gospels, telling the same story four different ways.” ―Casey Cep, The New Yorker
"In Gilead, the first volume, the Rev. John Ames writes that ‘a good sermon is one side of a passionate conversation,’ and Ms. Robinson’s novels work that way, too, replying to one another, querying, clarifying or rebutting, but always sustaining a dialogue that feels as grand and as inexhaustible as the mysteries they explore . . . These novels honor creation by affording us something we only occasionally find in the vastness of existence: a glimpse of eternity, such as it is." ―Sam Sacks, The Wall Street Journal
“With the sublime Jack, [Marilynne Robinson] resumes and deepens her quest, extending it to the contemplation of race . . . Robinson masterfully allows her protagonists to do the heavy lifting of the storytelling and employs deceptively simple dialogue as her primary tool. But make no mistake―there is richness and depth at every turn.” ―De'Shawn Charles Winsolw, O, the Oprah Magazine
"Each of [Robinson's] novels has celebrated the fact that the ineffable is inseparable from the quotidian, and rendered the ineffable, quotidian world back to us, peculiar, luminous, and precise . . . There are passages when Jack’s eye glimmers so clearly on the moment, when his dream logic feels so apt, that the whole world Robinson has illuminated with such care and attention reappears, and we are returned to the prophetic everyday.” ―Jordan Kisner, The Atlantic
“‘Contemporary classics’ is the oft-used descriptor of Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead series, the correct method of describing these lasting and constant books . . . [Jack is] a love story with the highest stakes . . . Jack poignantly shows us the messy, complex, heartbreaking side to getting everything you ever wanted.” ―Emily Temple, Literary Hub
“Not just a meditation on faith and human suffering but a singular portrait of the divine.” ―Leah Greenblatt, Entertainment Weekly
"As each new book appears, the world that Marilynne Robinson first created in Gilead becomes more textured and complex . . . What emerges at the end of Jack is the extent of Marilynne Robinson’s command. She shares with George Eliot an interest in large questions and also a fascination with a wildness in the soul, with a sensuality and a spiritual striving that cannot be easily calmed, and can be captured only by the rarest talent.” ―Colm Tóibín, 4Columns
“Can love save a man from perdition? That question, braided with romance and religion, is at the heart of Marilynne Robinson’s new novel . . .Robinson cradles [Jack’s] love for Della with the tenderness of a gracious creator.” ―Ron Charles, The Washington Post
“A sometimes tender, sometimes fraught story of interracial love in a time of trouble . . . The story flows swiftly―and without a hint of inevitability ―as Robinson explores a favorite theme, ‘guilt and grace met together.’ An elegantly written proof of the thesis that love conquers all―but not without considerable pain.” ―Kirkus (Starred review)
"Robinson’s latest glorious work of metaphysical and moral inquiry, nuanced feelings, intricate imagination, and exquisite sensuousness . . .Myriad manifestations of pain are evoked, but here, too, are beauty, mystery, and joy as Robinson holds us rapt with the exactitude of her perceptions and the exhilaration of her hymnal cadence, and so gracefully elucidates the complex sorrows and wonders of life and spirit.” ―Booklist (Starred review)
“Languidly page through a new Marilynne Robinson novel and forget that any world exists outside her rippling cornfields and creaky country kitchens, where slow-building crises of faith and reason are talked through by well-meaning, if troubled, people . . . Prepare to be sucked in by our country’s most thoughtful novelist.” ―Vulture
“Robinson’s stellar, revelatory fourth entry in her Gilead cycle . . . is a beautiful, superbly crafted meditation on the redemption and transcendence that love affords.” ―Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
"A meditation on human decency and the capacity for redemption." ―Joumana Khatib, The New York Times
"Marilynne Robinson returns once more to the lovely, soulful world of Gilead, Iowa, for another evocative novel about the questions of religion and how we understand our place in the world. The author’s spare, poetic style has already conjured up her near-mythic setting in previous books Gilead, Home, and Lila, and to this near-unimpeachable trifecta she now adds Jack, which focuses its attention on John Ames Boughton, a supporting player in those previous stories. The son of Gilead’s Presbyterian minister, his interracial romance with high school teacher Della is traced from its awkward beginnings to heartfelt (and heartbreaking) later days, with all of Robinson’s signature explorations of the strange power of belief―and the lack thereof." ―AV Club
About the Author
- Publisher : Farrar, Straus and Giroux (September 29, 2020)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 320 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0374279306
- ISBN-13 : 978-0374279301
- Item Weight : 14.4 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.67 x 1.2 x 8.56 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #5,306 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
This is a long internal monologue of self-examination by a preacher's son who is the grey sheep of a loving, forgiving family, whose offenses were a compulsion to petty thievery, drinking and owing money to violent lenders. The book is page after page after page of interior negative evaluation, rehearsed futures that do not occur and plain need of a woman he is sure he will hurt. The nonstop and sometimes literate agonies of self-cynicism are interrupted by very few events, some with bad, some with less bad outcomes. The one positive outcome is the last page for which the entire book was made: grace. There are deeply thought and originally expressed musings on life and love. The love of the young black woman for the continuously self-advertised self-examining ne'er-do-well is based solely on her seeing a soul in him. The human soul is presented as something apart from the actions of a life, and she is not heard describing anything about his soul apart from this. The portrayal of blacks is a striking monotone. All the blacks in his life share the same vocabulary as white Jack, as well as the same literary and social references.
Robinson is profoundly thoughtful about the uniqueness and isolation of the individual in an aggressive, competitive and uncaring world. But the people in this book other than Jack are not realized, not real, and he is mainly a harmless, self absorbed, self judging preacher's kid wishing for some redemption while confident it will be denied. Her characters came to me as on paper people, serving an elaborately cloaked sermon on grace.
If you loved Gilead as I did, you can skip Jack and re-read Gilead. I just read the first page again and am paused in bottomless gratitude.
It is possible to read “Jack” as a stand-alone novel, but you shouldn’t. Rather read it in the order it was written, last of the four. The scope of Robinson’s achievement cannot be fully appreciated until all four have been read. She has created a series of old testament books, written in a modern context. Somewhat, modern, that is, as the books all take place post World War 2, in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s. Start with Gilead. The next three books are a biblical like retelling of the same story, involving the same people, each from a different perspective, each arising out of a different context, expanding the story bit by bit until it stands fully revealed for all to see - all the good and bad.
All of the books take place in the Midwest, with “Jack” being centered in St. Louis. It focuses on the Boughton’s wayward son, Jack, and his love for an upstanding young black woman, Della Miles. Suffice it to say, miscegenation was illegal in Missouri at the time of the book, a critical element of the story.
Both Jack and Della’s fathers are men of the cloth. Among other things, this means their children are each highly educated. Jack and Della not only know their bible, but also have a love of literature, especially poetry. But other than that, they seem to have little in common. Jack has become a reprobate (a “bum” as he calls himself). From “Gilead” on we have learned that Jack is irredeemable and Robinson draws this out in this book. Every good thing about Jack is revealed to have some taint of fraud or touch of avarice. At the same time Della is so completely upstanding as to be almost a caricature of a pastor’s daughter. It is this improbable pairing that seems to bother people most who read “Jack”. What can Della possibly see in Jack? In fact, within the context of the larger story, they are simply different reflections of the same fundamental person.
These are two people who don’t fit. They are somehow out of step with the time in which they are living and they are each powerless to do anything about it. Della strives to conform to her family’s wishes. Jack lashes out against his father with petty acts of theft and meanness. Put them in today’s culture, when Jack could be comfortable rejecting his father’s religion and finding his morality in a non-spiritual context, and Della, being able to succeed in a world that accepts blacks as equals, and both able to live with the other without condemnation by their respective races, and you could see a happy ending. But that is not the world in which they live. Because of whom they are we know from the first book, “Gilead,” they are predestined to a fate they cannot alter and each is deeply angry because of it. A similar family background and a mutual fundamental kindness is what initiated their attraction. But their bond is cemented by the mutual anger at the intractable future forced on them. Their individual day-to-day appearance to the outside world belies this fundamental similarity, even as, ultimately, it proves the impossibility of avoiding their fates.
If you read “Jack” alone, this may all seem like the prelude to a dreary story of predestination. But within the context of the four books as a whole, I don’t think this is true. In the earlier books Reverend Boughton’s friend, Reverend Ames, has a young wife, Lila. Reverend Ames married Lila very late in life, shocking his congregation, as not only was Lila young, but she was also, clearly, of a very poor and questionable background. At the very minimum, she was uneducated, and did not seem to be a suitable woman for Reverend Ames to marry. Lila was aware of all of this, and spoke rarely around others, hoping to make her lack of formal education less apparent. At this point in the story, Jack has returned home from St. Louis. One evening they were all sitting on the porch and Jack began a conversation about free will. He didn’t understand, if God knew everything that has happened and is going to happen, how anyone could have free will? If God knew that he, Jack, was going to be condemned to hell for the sinful life he has led, why was he born? Was it just to populate the earth with people God knew were going to fail to set an example for the better people? Why would He permit this to happen to Jack – create him just to end up in hell? If it’s all just going to happen the way God knows it’s going to happen, isn’t creating Jack just sadistic on God’s part? In response his father and Reverend Ames discuss predestination, free will and the like, a discussion Jack skewers with his retorts and quotes from the Bible. As the conversation proceeded and was on the verge of becoming heated, Lila spoke up. All she said was, “A person can change. Everything can change.”
And so, this is the story “Jack” completes. That in addition to redemption, there is failure. In addition to change, there is failure to change. Sometimes this failure is personal. Sometimes it is the failure of a culture as a whole. At the end of “Jack” I went back and reread the end of “Gilead,” and it was heartbreaking, heartbreaking in a way that it was not when I read it the first time without the benefit of the books that came later. I was heartbroken for Jack and Della and for the culture in which they found themselves, a culture in which we still find ourselves. I was heartbroken for us.
“Jack” completes the moral arc of these families begun in “Gilead” and the four books of the Gilead series are, taken as one, a revelation. They should be read and reread. What Robinson has created is nothing short of a classic.