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Jack (Oprah's Book Club) by Marilynne…

Jack (Oprah's Book Club) (edition 2021)

by Marilynne Robinson (Author)

Series: Gilead (4)

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4602741,810 (3.67)37
Title:Jack (Oprah's Book Club)
Authors:Marilynne Robinson (Author)
Info:Picador Paper (2021), 320 pages
Collections:Your library

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Jack by Marilynne Robinson


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This is the fourth book in Robinson's Gilead series, about two families from the town of that name in Iowa. We had got parts of Jack's story in the earlier books Gilead and Home, but I confess I had forgotten most of the details and enjoyed Jack as if it had been a standalone novel. The protagonist is the alcoholic, self-loathing son of a preacher, who falls in love with a black woman, Della (whose father is also a clergyman), in St Louis in 1956. It's a slow-moving story, but it's moving as well as slow. Jack gradually finds his path to redemption and Della her path to independence; it's not an easy time for a relationship like theirs, but Robinson takes us through it all carefully and believably. I really enjoyed this. ( )
  nwhyte | Sep 25, 2021 |
Poetic words, I like the sentence structures and reserved narration. But. These 2 main characters are too dreamy and polite and feckless for me. I was heartily relieved when the cemetery passage concluded. I had feared the rest of the book would be their sleepless whispering in the graveyard.
( )
  Je9 | Aug 10, 2021 |
Marilynne Robinson's "Gilead" novels always take their time and take you into their world completely. I feel that at some level I failed this book a little. It asks for and deserves attention and I know that my reading right now is more relaxed and offhand. However, the beauty of the prose and the totality of the story just pulled me in and transported me to another time and place. Novels that pull off that trick are amazing. Jack is not always easy to like, he is frankly a mess, but he knows it and I found myself letting go of my judgement and bringing in my compassion, a lesson for our times if ever there was one. The phrase that is often used is "show, don't tell" when it comes to fiction and this book shows you why that works. Instead of telling you how you should feel about the characters it shows you how they are and allows you to figure it out for yourself. Jack's self-awareness is keen and leads to observations like "He suspected he drank to give himself a way of accounting for the vast difference between any present situation and the intentions that brought him to it." I still kept yelling at the page "stop drinking so much!" but I began to see why he did. His relationship with an African-American woman is obviously problematic in 1950s St. Louis but he is not about pragmatism. Each time he tries that he is reset, as he puts it "Just when he thought he knew something about the rest of his life, there she was." The relationship is rendered so honestly that the love and beauty that come from it feel real, not like some Hallmark movie contrivance. There is every reason for them not to be together and only one reason they should be. But that is the important one. It costs Della to be with Jack but she sees him, really sees him, and she can't turn away. The opening section, which takes place in a cemetery overnight, is just an amazing way to open a novel. The entire book works like that, each piece is important and I had the feeling that Ms. Robinson considers each and every word she writes. This is the kind of book I can see myself re-reading in a few years. There is a lot in it. But most of all there is the act of living by people, the attempt to fight through and commit "...his grandest larceny by far, this sly theft of happiness from the very clutches of prohibition." Human beings have and deserve dignity. All of us. ( )
  MarkMad | Jul 14, 2021 |
Profound and skillful portraiture. Liked that this book had more dialogue than most Robinson, which is predominantly intensely ruminative. This one is too, but at least you get to hear characters conversing more than usual for her. As much as I admire her, I wish there was less circularity and OCD in her characters. Most seem mentally ill to some degree or another. Fascinating even when depressing. But you just want to say "get hold of yourself." ( )
  RGilbraith | May 23, 2021 |
As usual from Marilynne Robinson, inspired writing with deep introspection. But so very sad. ( )
  libq | Apr 10, 2021 |
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He was walking along almost beside her, two steps behind. She did not look back. She said, "I'm not talking to you."
"I wonder sometimes if there would be such a thing as sin if God didn't exist."
"I'm certain of it."
"I don't know. I suppose sinning is doing harm. Agreed? And everything is vulnerable to harm one way or another. Everybody is vulnerable. It's kind of horrible when you think about it. All that breakage,without so much an an intention behind it half the times. All that tantalizing fragility." (p.44)
We are not as we appear. The Christian lady and the harmless man. The Prince of Darkness and the vial of divine wrath. There was some truth in it. (p.66)
It was a shock to his metaphysics to discover that when he had forsworn malicious intent, the effects of his actions, his mere presence, were changed very little and not reliably for the better. (p. 139)
It's not always clear to me how to tell grace from, you know, punishment. (p. 167)
Meaninglessness was not refuge. Giant miseries and giant hopes can carry on their wars in the meres cranny. (p.171)
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