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Home: A Novel by Marilynne Robinson
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Home: A Novel (original 2008; edition 2009)

by Marilynne Robinson

Series: Gilead (2)

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1,862943,713 (3.95)412
Member:Goodlit
Title:Home: A Novel
Authors:Marilynne Robinson
Info:
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:fiction, female author, Orange Prize, 21st century, USA

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Home by Marilynne Robinson (2008)

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Showing 1-5 of 94 (next | show all)
I loved Housekeeping so I had great hopes for this book. I had my doubts early on but plodded on, despite all the religion. I enjoyed the family dynamics but really could have done with less religion. If this was my own copy and not that of the library, I probably would have torn it in half. ( )
  viviennestrauss | Aug 30, 2014 |
I think I waited too long after reading Gilead to read this companion novel. Gilead sucked me in from the moment I picked it up. The writing felt so new and so old at the same time. Home took me longer to give in to. Part of it may have been the closed circle of characters and the sadness, regret, and misunderstanding that permeates the entire novel. This novel views most of the same events as in Gilead, but from the Boughton's perspective, specifically Glory, Jack (the prodigal son), and their father. I found Jack just so sad and it made me so mad that he was so polite and passive and always apologizing and laughing nervously when I felt that though he had failed his family, they had failed him as well. The vision of him as a little boy, sitting up in the tree or out in the barn, listening to his family living their lives inside, and knowing that they were thinking he was off causing serious trouble somewhere - it's heartbreaking.

Again, I love Robinson's writing, it's just beautiful and really sucks you in. And she's amazing at developing characters without letting you know she's doing it. Things like, regarding Jack, And his head fell, and it was real regret. He was so tired of himself. Overall, I loved this book though not quite as deeply as I loved Gilead. Some day I'll read them again back to back to see if I feel differently. ( )
  japaul22 | Aug 19, 2014 |
Original post at Book Rhapsody.

***

Going back to Gilead

One of my book club friends proclaimed me, with soft pats at my back, the Champion of Marilynne Robinson. Why not? I have read all three of her novels, each of them garnering my 5-stars. I cannot do her novels injustice with the sheer act of weighing the quality of her novels. There should be no second thoughts–give all those stars.

And why should I rethink Robinson’s talent when she is the only writer I’ve ever read who can turn an ordinary set of words into a luminous prose powerful enough to create miracles? It somehow enrages me that only one of my book club friends has read her, but at least some are picking my recommendation. They have her books on their respective shelves. That gives me a sense of comfort, allowing me to be hopeful, that the good word about her writing will spread like a gentle breeze sweeping through the city.

Her last two novels, Gilead and Home, are novels that deal largely with theology, one of the subject matters that least interests me. And yet, I am drawn to them. I cannot forget how Reverend John Ames, in Gilead, smashed my heart into smithereens. He is back in Home, but this time, he no longer is the novel’s voice. This time, we relive the events in Gilead with the Boughtons. There is Reverend Robert Boughton, Ames’s lifelong friend; Glory, Boughton’s youngest daughter; and Jack, the prodigal son.

The old man said, “You take your time. But I want you to give me your hand now.” And he took Jack’s hand and moved it gently toward himself, so he could study the face Jack would have hidden from him. “Yes,” he said, “here you are.” He laid the hand against his chest. “You feel that heart in there? My life became your life, like lighting one candle from another. Isn’t that a mystery? I’ve thought about it many times. And yet you always did the opposite of what I hoped for, the exact opposite. So I tried no to hope for anything at all, except that we wouldn’t lose you. So of course we did. That was the one hope I couldn’t put aside.”

Home tells the stories of these three Boughton family members: Old Boughton at the fringes of his life thanks to his slow slip to senility, Glory at the onset of middle life crisis when her own family life has not even begun, and Jack at his long-awaited homecoming with a stash of secrets, a box of burdens.

Old Boughton is living at the charity of the kind townspeople of Gilead. He can no longer deliver sermons; he’s too old to do that. He has raised eight children, six of them happily married, one of them living with him. But the one he longs for the most is his black sheep, the one who could never feel at home, the child whom he thinks is filled with so much sadness, the one who has just arrived at the twilight of his years.

Glory walks around their house with an armful of memories regarding its familial grandeur back when she was still a child. Every room and furniture is familiar, only that everything in the house is old. This creates a sense of wonder in her for she feels a sort of unbelongingness, that after all these years, she might not have understood all the things around her. Her restlessness is further magnified by her fiance’s empty promises, but she quiets any resentment in her heart with a faith that has become as habitual to her as breathing.

Jack, in Gilead, is remembered by Old Ames as nothing but a trouble child: a thief, a drunkard, and yes, a man who has no sense of responsibility. But in Home, he is a man with a troubled heart. One scene that is accounted in both novels is when Jack asked his “sir” (Old Boughton) and his “papa” (Old Ames) regarding their thoughts on predestination. Being a man that has a bad reputation, one is expected to think that the question is asked out of spite, out of a desire to rouse anger in the weak hearts of the nearly dying men. But no. We do not see a mocking man. What we see is a man weighing his own case–is he a man consigned to perdition? Is he incapable of winning over the grace of our Lord?

The three reunite as Old Boughton carries the guilt for failing his son, as Jack holds the regret for shaming his father, and as Glory sustains her relationship with her father and builds one with her brother. It is true; this novel will wring every tear from your eyes. An event as simple as Jack’s haircut, done by Glory, holds so many emotions. The two are still on that phase where they are discovering each other’s thoughts despite their ages. They have so much to learn. Years of distance has spaced them further apart, and that distance we have to add to the existing gap caused by Jack’s fierce childhood solitude.

So I have raved on and on about the situation of each Boughton, and yet, what makes this novel so deserving of a gushing admiration? I admitted, there is nothing physically happening in the novel. The only movements are the dishwashing and gardening chores of the two siblings, the suppers and dinners, and their talks about the past and the present, if talking can be considered a physical event.

And that is exactly it. Reading this is like coming home to your grandmother’s house, in this case Robinson. It is a novel about lifelong friendships and the power of families. It is filled with the torments of regret and of failure. Its thoughts are both subtle and provocative, scathing and healing, graceful and unforgiving. All these are from the seemingly effortless writing of Robinson.

Rereading my humble contribution as a Champion of Marilynne Robinson makes me realize that I have barely uncovered Home’s luster. I always find myself incapable of giving justice to great novels like this and Gilead, but isn’t that always the case? Just reliving the images that the novel created inside my head threaten to break my heart all over again. That alone is enough for readers to pick this up soon. ( )
  angusmiranda | Jun 10, 2014 |
A companion novel to Gilead

After ending her relationship with the great love of her life, Glory Boughton returns to the small town of Gilead to care for her ailing father. Reverend Robert Boughton, a cantankerous old preacher, longs to see his son Jack, who left Gilead decades ago under a cloud of scandal. When the long-awaited letter from Jack finally arrives, the Reverend can barely contain his excitement. Glory still has reservations, which are shared by her father's best friend, John Ames (the narrator of Gilead). When Jack shows up, several days after he initially planned to arrive, his father is filled with joy. As time passes, and Jack and Boughton constantly butt heads, Glory begins to wonder just what brought her brother back home.

Gilead and Home cover roughly the same period of time, but tell the story from different perspectives. Many of the incidents and conversations are the same, even identical. But the mood and scope of the stories are completely different. Gilead is an old man's attempt to pass on his family's legacy and something of his character to his son, whom he will not live to see grow up. Home is more contained, a quieter novel that focuses on adult children who shoulder the burden of caring for their dying father while still struggling with their own problems. It is not necessary to read the older novel before starting the newer one. Perhaps it would be better not to, for Home suffers considerably when compared to the Pulitzer Prize-winning Gilead.

The biggest problem I have with this book is that nothing much happens. Glory doesn't have the wisdom of age or the poetic voice of a preacher, so she focuses on the endless monotony of the mundane: ironing shirts, cooking and grocery shopping, and making endless cups of coffee. I feel like not five pages goes by without some character, nearly always Glory or Jack, asking for or regretting their lack of coffee.

As in Gilead, much time is spent puzzling over the nature of Jack. A troubled child who grew up into an alcoholic, Jack is nursing a broken heart as he cares for his father. Readers of Gilead will remember why Jack refuses to discuss his past with his family, and knowing this does make his character seem more sympathetic. Without this prior knowledge, he come across as a drifter and a self-obsessed loser who refuses to engage in the world around him. Obviously, he's depressed, but the way that everyone in the book can't stop thinking about him is very strange. But one does feel sorry for him; Jack is constantly being nagged or passively berated by his father for his failings.

One feels even worse for Glory, a college-educated woman who supported herself for years as a teacher but has now been reduced to a drudge, cleaning up after these two men. Her father generally ignores her contributions to the household, so focused is he on lavishing attention on his wayward son. It's a little heartbreaking.

I really enjoyed Gilead so I was excited when I heard that Robinson had written this companion novel. But little happens and there's absolutely no suspense in the plot because we already know everything that will happen! There's a poignancy that comes from this book's study of despair and a life lived with little or no faith, contrasting sharply with the absolute faith of Reverend Boughton and Reverend Ames, but though I finished the book I often wished I had just given up and stopped instead of slogging through. ( )
  makaiju | Mar 18, 2014 |
A tender and painful story of family.

Bookcrossing: http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/8513967/ ( )
  wareagle78 | Jan 22, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 94 (next | show all)
The glories of Gilead - and of Housekeeping, for that matter - have not quite found their way into Home. One reason for this may be Robinson's decision to write in the third person for the first time, thus suppressing one of her great gifts, which is the mix of wryness, wisdom and self-deprecation with which she infused her first two narrators' voices.
 
But what remains is Gilead's sense of how character, however unkindly, determines one's fate, which in Home arrives silently but powerfully, like a glacier leaving a raw gash in the landscape. Robinson's output may also be glacial, but the force her words leave in her wake is unmistakable.
added by melmore | editNPR, Lizzie Skurnick (Sep 19, 2008)
 
These ugly facts [of small-town racism] complicate the beauty of “Home,” but the way Robinson embeds them in the novel is part of what makes it so beautiful. It is a book unsparing in its acknowledgment of sin and unstinting in its belief in the possibility of grace. It is at once hard and forgiving, bitter and joyful, fanatical and serene. It is a wild, eccentric, radical work of literature that grows out of the broadest, most fertile, most familiar native literary tradition. What a strange old book it is.
added by melmore | editNew York Times, A. O. Scott (Sep 19, 2008)
 
The Reverend Boughton, is in decline. Glory, the youngest of his eight children, has come home to care for him, and both are grateful and alarmed when Jack, the prodigal son, reappears after an excruciating 20-year absence. Once a charming scoundrel, Jack is now riddled with regrets and despair. As she cares for two broken men struggling toward reconciliation and redemption, Glory is a paragon of patience, a virtue readers also must cultivate as Robinson follows an austere narrative regime, confining the reader to the day-by-day present and the Boughton home. Household chores are infused with metaphysical implications, while what is not said carries more weight than what is spoken. Robinson wrestles with moral dilemmas ordinary and catastrophic, and ponders the mystery of why human beings never feel wholly at home on earth. This is a rigorous, sometimes claustrophobic, yet powerfully spiritual novel of anguish and prayer, wisdom and beauty, penance and hope.
added by kthomp25 | editBooklist, Donna Seaman
 

» Add other authors (5 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Robinson, Marilynneprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Vlek, RonaldTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For Noah and Elise and for Beatrice
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"Home to stay, Glory! Yes!" her father said, and her heart sank.
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The house embodied for him the general blessedness of his life, which was manifest, really indisputable. And which he never failed to acknowledge, especially when it stood over against particular sorrow. Even more frequently after their mother died he spoke of the house as if it were an old wife, beautiful for every comfort it had offered, ever grace, through all the long years. It was a beauty that would not be apparent to every eye.
”Yes,” the old man said, as he did when memory stirred. “Those were good times.”
No, it's a feeling I have always had, almost since you were a baby. As though there was something you needed from me and I never figured out what it was. … I just never knew another child who didn't feel at home in the house where he was born.
They had always been so careful of him, almost afraid to touch him. There was an aloofness about him more thoroughgoing than modesty or reticence. It was feral, and fragile. It had enforced a peculiar decorum on them all, even on their mother. There was always the moment when they acknowledged this – no hugging, no roughhousing could include him. Even his father patted his shoulder tentatively, shy and cautious. Whey should a child have defended his loneliness that way? But let him have his ways, their father said, or he would be gone. He'd smile at them across that distance, and the smile was sad and hard, and it meant estrangement, even when he was with them.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0374299102, Hardcover)

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

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:44:44 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Glory Boughton, aged thirty-eight, has returned to Gilead to care for her dying father. Soon her brother, Jack--the prodigal son of the family, gone for twenty years--comes home too, looking for refuge and trying to make peace with a past littered with tormenting trouble and pain.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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