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Lila (2014)

by Marilynne Robinson

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Gilead (3)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,9881016,287 (4.04)274
Lila, homeless and alone after years of roaming the countryside, steps inside a small-town Iowa church-the only available shelter from the rain-and ignites a romance and a debate that will reshape her life. She becomes the wife of a minister and widower, John Ames, and begins a new existence while trying to make sense of the days of suffering that preceded her newfound security. Neglected as a toddler, Lila was rescued by Doll, a canny young drifter, and brought up by her in a hardscrabble childhood of itinerant work. Together they crafted a life on the run, living hand-to-mouth with nothing but their sisterly bond and a lucky knife to protect them. But despite bouts of petty violence and moments of desperation, their shared life is laced with moments of joy and love. When Lila arrives in Gilead, she struggles to harmonize the life of her makeshift family and their days of hardship with the gentle worldview of her husband which paradoxically judges those she loves. Revisiting the beloved characters and setting of Marilynne Robinson's Pulitzer Prize-winning Gilead and Orange Prize-winning Home, Lila is a moving expression of the mysteries of existence.… (more)
  1. 10
    Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín (charl08)
    charl08: In both novels, key character faces new, difficult choices in new places. Both beautifully written, compelling.
  2. 00
    Reflections in a Golden Eye by Carson McCullers (Philosofiction)
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» See also 274 mentions

English (95)  Italian (2)  Spanish (2)  Catalan (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (101)
Showing 1-5 of 95 (next | show all)
I found Lila to be an immensely engaging story, as unflinching and nuanced as its titular protagonist. Robinson is incredibly skilled at expressing Lila's perspective and mentality, not only with the self-reflecting, self-chastising, and insightful voice in which the story is told but also the novel's entire shape. The non-linear narrative really worked for me, since Lila's past and present experiences flowing together seemed to me a natural product of her remembering and processing the events of her old life in the context of her new one. Her childhood and life as a drifter, her painful and lonely history. Her memories of Doll, both those which are transcendentally comforting and those which bring her pain and confusion. The Iowa-slow and almost musical pace of her interactions and conversations with "the old man" Reverend Ames. Over the course of the book all these things explain and form the character of Lila, until by the end of the book I could almost see her sitting in front of me, haloed by red geraniums and poring over her Ezekiel.

I haven't read the two previous entries in the series, though I read and enjoyed Housekeeping many years ago. While this reordering was mostly inadvertent -- I found a copy of Lila in the super-discounted section of the bookstore where I work, dove into it with a fervent enjoyment, and was too immersed to stop my reading by the time I realized it was the third in a series -- I'm actually pleased to get Lila's story first. I don't usually like to read out of order in this way, but I think there may be a value in first seeing Lila as a completely realized character rather than an opaque or mysterious one as I imagine she must be in Gilead. Of course my opinion may change when I read the earlier books, we'll see! I'm intrigued to learn more about Ames and Boughton, whose extended stories were often referenced or pointed to. ( )
  misslevel | Sep 22, 2021 |
Gave up half way through. Although I loved GILEAD and wished I could have a real theology conversation with the pastor Robinson created, this book just seemed like an endless discussion of Christian soteriology. Because this protagonist's life is so vague and meandering I lost interest, despite the gorgeous writing and page after page of wonderful insights. ( )
  wordloversf | Aug 14, 2021 |
Lila is stolen away from her extremely poor and abusive family by Doll. They survive as they can on the road. And then something happens to Doll, Lila's one real connection in the world. Eventually, Lila finds a place for herself in Gilead. An unlikely one. (Don't want to be a spoiler!). The writing is phenomenal. It is essentially Lila's stream of consciousness, constantly moving back and forth in time as she is haunted by the pain and fears of roaming and surviving during the depression. Her introduction to religion plunges into the comforts and questions of belief. Don't miss this one! Sure to read Gilead and other books by Robinson soon. ( )
  bookfest | Jul 17, 2021 |
Is it unfair of me to compare this book to Robinson’s [b:Gilead|68210|Gilead|Marilynne Robinson|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1327936326s/68210.jpg|2481792], and find it lacking?

I have not read [b:Home|2924318|Home (Gilead, #2)|Marilynne Robinson|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1327882472s/2924318.jpg|2951639], the second book in the “Gilead saga”, having jumped from Gilead to Lila, and I now wonder if this was a mistake. That, maybe, the transition from the narration of Gilead to the story of Lila would not feel so distant.

I still liked “Lila” very much, and would recommend it wholehearted. But I do feel that Marilynne Robinson never achieved the same meditative quality that permeated Gilead . This is probably unfair of me, as an author is not supposed to write the same book over and over, and here I am complaining. I don’t think I wanted the same book though, but I wanted the same feeling, and actually I think that Robinson was aiming at it and failed.

Like in Gilead, Robinson is obviously attempting a philosophical discussion on Christian beliefs. Through the character of Lila, she voices questions of redemption and salvation. But, like the answers of the major Christian denominations, I felt a disconnect with her attempt here.

Again, I might be at fault. I confess that the references to the book of Ezekiel were above my understanding of the Bible, and that I should read it before I move on to other books, but the truth is that I am not interested. If the questionings of Rev. John Ames spoke so deeply to me in Gilead , the questionings of an afterlife, as deeply worrisome as they were to Lila, don’t interest me. I liked the character of Lila, I suffered with her and for her. Her life, her inner strength and loneliness were so raw. But I wanted to shake her and say: Hell and heaven are a false construct. If there is a God, then we will be together with those that we loved!

At the end I think that Marilynne Robinson stepped in the most dangerous minefield in Christianity: the idea of a heavenly afterlife as a prize to Christians only. I think it was a courageous attempt, but one that inevitably will lead to dogmatic answers.

Still, I am giving it 4 stars because the writing is poetic and natural, and the inner lives of so many characters were true. Their humanity, loneliness and struggles so real.
( )
  RosanaDR | Apr 15, 2021 |
Marilynne Robinson, is a wonderful writer of prose and I enjoyed this book. It does spur me on to read Gilead because the only other Robinson I have read is housekeeping. I appreciated Lila's story and why we needed to return to her tortured life but it did get a tad wearisome. I will write down some of Robinson's prose for later uses though - I especially liked the last 50 pages. ( )
  FurbyKirby | Jan 5, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 95 (next | show all)
With Lila, Marilynne Robinson completes her mythic cycle, this intimate portrait of an imaginary town filled with very real people. Like her forebears James Joyce, William Faulkner and William Kennedy, among others, Robinson has created a world unto itself, as cleanly evoked as Dublin, Yoknapatawpha County or Albany; only in Robinson’s case, her alternate universe is one of the blessed places of the earth.
 
You don’t need an ounce of faith to be stunned and moved by Lila. God has never been so attractive as he is in Robinson’s depiction, but her heart is with the human experience, in all its forms. Lila and Ames are lonely souls, worn out by sadness and suffering, but they learn how to be together and find salvation, of a sort. Robinson writes Lila in a mystifyingly impressive amalgam of recollection and spontaneously unfolding thought. Sometimes you feel the ideas are being born fresh on the page, and yet they also contain a depth of thinking and feeling that only years of work can summon. Taken together, with Lila as the culmination, these books will surely be read and known in time as one of the great achievements of contemporary literature. An embarrassingly grand statement for such gentle, graceful work.
added by zhejw | editThe Guardian, Sophie Elmhirst (Oct 12, 2014)
 
Robinson shakes her finger at whoever she thinks needs to learn a lesson. I’m not saying that great novelists haven’t done this before (see “War and Peace”), only that it didn’t necessarily benefit their work. Robinson writes about religion two ways. One is meliorist, reformist. The other is rapturous, visionary. Many people have been good at the first kind; few at the second kind, at least today.

The second kind is Robinson’s forte.
 
Robinson’s determination to shed light on these complexities—the solitude that endures inside intimacy, the sorrow that persists beside joy—marks her as one of those rare writers genuinely committed to contradiction as an abiding state of consciousness. Her characters surprise us with the depth and ceaseless wrinkling of their feelings.
added by melmore | editThe Atlantic, Leslie Jamison (Sep 17, 2014)
 

» Add other authors (8 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Robinson, Marilynneprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hoffman, MaggienNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kampmann, EvaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

Belongs to Series

Gilead (3)

Belongs to Publisher Series

Mirmanda (134)
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The child was just there on the stoop in the dark, hugging herself against the cold, all cried out and nearly sleeping.
Quotations
What could the old man say about all those people born with more courage than they could find a way to spend and then there was nothing to do with it but just get by?
And the old man did look as though every blessing he had forgotten to hope for had descended on him all at once, for the time being.
He was happier than he wanted her to see, relieved even though he knew it was too soon to trust that they were safe yet, and worried that he was too ready to be happy and relieved. After breakfast he set a little glass bowl on the porch railing to catch some snow as it fell, and when he saw it had stopped falling, he took the bowl out to the rosebushes to pluck snow that had caught in the brambles. He brought it inside and set it on the windowsill so the sun would melt it. It was pretty the way the light made kind of a little flame, floating in the middle of the water, burning away in there cold as could be. It was for christening the child, she knew without asking. If the child came struggling into the world, that water would be ready for him. If it had to be his only blessing, then it would be a pure and lovely blessing. That was the old man getting ready to make the best of the worst that could happen. Not my will but thine. In his sermons he was always reminding himself of that prayer.
You are right not to talk. It's a sort of higher honesty, I think. Once you start talking, there's no telling what you'll say (p. 20).
Clean an acceptable. It would be something to know what that felt like, even for an hour or two (p. 67)
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Lila, homeless and alone after years of roaming the countryside, steps inside a small-town Iowa church-the only available shelter from the rain-and ignites a romance and a debate that will reshape her life. She becomes the wife of a minister and widower, John Ames, and begins a new existence while trying to make sense of the days of suffering that preceded her newfound security. Neglected as a toddler, Lila was rescued by Doll, a canny young drifter, and brought up by her in a hardscrabble childhood of itinerant work. Together they crafted a life on the run, living hand-to-mouth with nothing but their sisterly bond and a lucky knife to protect them. But despite bouts of petty violence and moments of desperation, their shared life is laced with moments of joy and love. When Lila arrives in Gilead, she struggles to harmonize the life of her makeshift family and their days of hardship with the gentle worldview of her husband which paradoxically judges those she loves. Revisiting the beloved characters and setting of Marilynne Robinson's Pulitzer Prize-winning Gilead and Orange Prize-winning Home, Lila is a moving expression of the mysteries of existence.

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