Friday, June 26, 2009

Review: Home by Marilynne Robinson

Marilynne Robinson's Home accompanies her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Gilead. I suppose that some would say term it a sequel, but it is, in fact, the same story told from a different character's point of view. While Gilead follows Rev. John Ames, Home is told from the point of view of Glory Boughton, the daughter of Ames' best friend.

The most interesting character in the novel is, by far, "Jack" Boughton, Glory's brother. Jack is the typical prodigal son, the best-loved of his father's children. Jack struggles under this distinction, however, feeling it is both undeserved and unwanted, and he cannot live up to the expectations that accompany such a position in the family.

What stands out the most for me about Home is the theme of failure. Gilead was bittersweet in that the most valuable things in Ames' life (his wife and son) came too late for him to enjoy as a young man. Still, Ames seemed to have nothing to regret as he had always done what was right, leading some to term him in Gilead as unrealistically perfect. All of the characters in Home, however, struggle with their individual failures and disappointments--Jack's unsavory past, it is revealed led him to lose his wife and child, Glory's fiance turned out to be a fraud who had been using her for money, and their father knows that he has failed to save Jack, both in a spiritual and a material sense.

There is, of course, an ambiguous ending that leaves the possibility of future happiness open, but the theme of sorrow and loss is emphasized by Glory's reflection on her dreams and willingness to sacrifice them for others. There is something beautiful in her commitment to her family, but it is a kind of haunting beauty that ultimately left me saddened.

I would highly recommend this book and it may actually be, in my opinion, better than Gilead.

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