Thursday, June 2, 2016

Review: Home

Home Home by Marilynne Robinson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I started this one as soon as I'd finished reading "Gilead," and I recommend starting there as well.

Gilead is great for the way it takes the American Calvinistic tradition on its own terms. The Rev. John Ames is, for me, one of the great heroes of contemporary American literature for his own sake and for the way he tries to articulate his faith tradition to his young son. He is conscious of being heir to the passionate anti-slavery work of his grandfather and of his debt to his pacificist father. He's a man of the middle 20th century, looking forward to our time as the canvas across which his son will live his life, but he's aware of how much he's been shaped by the ideals and failings of the ones who've proceeded him. He never resorts to platitude or easy faith, and he nevertheless manages to find a deep and comforting beauty in the flawed world he knows.

Home seems to me a little less well done, but that's no insult given the magnitude of the first book's accomplishment. What's more, Home is a kind of Ginger Rogers to the Fred Astaire of Gilead. It's telling the same story backwards and in the high heels of a sequel that runs concurrent with the first book.

In the end, I find Jack Boughton simply less interesting than Ames, his father, or his sister. "Evil" as such is almost boring alongside the great ambition of those people to see the world as it is yet also to find its deepest beauty. There's enough of Glory, Rev. Boughton, and Ames here, though -- and of Jack doing what he can to wrestle with a powerful revulsion to faith -- to keep things in the same upper reaches of excellence as Gilead.

I'm going to take a break before getting to Lila, but there's no question Robinson is one of our great writers going.

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