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Jack by Marilynne Robinson
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Jack (edition 2020)

by Marilynne Robinson

Series: Gilead (4)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
8283726,332 (3.68)43
"A new Gilead novel that tells the story of John Ames Boughton, the beloved, erratic, and grieved-over prodigal son of a Presbyterian minister from Gilead, Iowa"--
Member:bookomaniac
Title:Jack
Authors:Marilynne Robinson
Info:London Virago 2020
Collections:Your library
Rating:***1/2
Tags:Noord-Amerikaanse literatuur, calvinisme, moraliteit

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Jack by Marilynne Robinson

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Showing 1-5 of 36 (next | show all)
I listened to this book. I don't know if it was the narrator's delivery or the writing style but I found in very slow-moving. I think that Robinson's work doesn't lend itself to audio very well.

This is a continuation of Robinson's Gilead novels. Those people who have read Gilead will remember Jack as the prodigal son who returns toward the end of the book. This book fills in the intervening years. Jack has spent time in jail and is mostly dependent on his brother, a successful doctor in St. Louis. One day he encounters a young black woman who is about to get soaked in a sudden downpour. Jack is in possession of an umbrella (which he stole) and so he offers it and himself to get the young woman home. Della is a teacher and from a well-known family. Her father is a preacher just like Jack's father. Perhaps that gives them some common ground but really, two more dsparate people could hardly be found. Nevertheless they fall in love and are discussing marriage. Except this is the 1950s and it is illegal for blacks and whites to marry. Della's family try to convince her to change her mind but she sees something in Jack that she won't give up on. So, it is up to Jack himself to protect her. He leaves St. Louis for Chicago without telling Della where he is going.

I found it hard to understand Della. Robinson uses the first person from Jack's point of view to tell the story so we never really get inside Della's head. I think I would have liked the book better if the viewpoint had been reversed. ( )
  gypsysmom | Nov 4, 2023 |
When I read Marilynne Robinson’s “Gilead” some years back, I felt it was one of the best books I had come across in a long time. Set in in 1950s Iowa, it consists of a long letter from a dying 76-year old Congregationalist minister John Ames to his little son, the unexpected blessing of his old age. As Ames sifts through his memories, the story of his family (particularly his preacher father and grandfather) and the community which they served starts to take shape. Old pains and preoccupations resurface - particularly those related to the minister's godson and namesake John Ames “Jack” Boughton. A troublemaker in childhood, youth and well into adulthood, is there the possibility of salvation for Boughton as well? Will God's grace ever touch him?

The passage of time has not dulled my admiration for this novel, which is lyrical, poetical, infused with (a Calvinist) theology yet utterly readable. Since Gilead, Robinson returned to the fictional world she created with two other volumes – Home and Lila – which are not sequels as such but, rather, “parallel narratives” featuring the same setting and characters but told from different perspectives.

Jack is the latest addition to the fold. It is, in some ways, a prequel to the “trilogy”, in that is is set in St Louis, Missouri around a decade before the “present” of the other three novels. Its protagonist is John Ames Boughton, the troublemaker who was so much on the mind of his godfather John Ames in Gilead. Jack is the troublemaker of the family, a vagrant living a down-and-out life which also featured a stint in prison. The novel is an account of his relationship with Della Miles, a black woman and daughter of a preacher. The relationship starts off as an unlikely friendship, but soon develops into a love affair, despite the strong opposition of Della’s family.

The novel is told in the third person but, very evidently, from the perspective of Jack. Jack is an interesting case study. He is a prodigal son, a flawed character, an intrinsically good man who, however, seems constantly drawn to evil. He has, however, a strong self-awareness, which leads him to admit that he has not much to offer Della, whom he raises on a pedestal as the epitome of goodness. Much of the novel shows Jack’s tentative steps towards letting himself being overcome by love – and not just any “love”, but a transformative one laced with divine grace.

If all this sounds very theological, be prepared that it is. And whilst Gilead, despite its deep and overt religious themes, was a gripping read, I must admit that I had to make an effort to read through Jack. Certain episodes, such as a passage early on in the novel featuring a long night spent by the lovers in a cemetery (debating theology, I hasten to clarify, rather than indulging in some Goth hanky-panky), became simply too tedious for my liking.

Obviously, the problem might have been that I was not in the mood for heavy stuff. Indeed, there have been several rave reviews of the novel, including one by Sarah Perry in the Guardian. Perry herself writes novels infused with theology of a Calvinist bent (Melmoth comes to mind) and is probably much better-placed than I am to appreciate Robinson’s “Calvinist romance”. I wish, though, that Jack were as exciting as Perry’s theological Gothic. Or, for that matter, as gripping as Robinson’s own Gilead.

https://endsoftheword.blogspot.com/2020/10/jack-by-marilynne-robinson.html ( )
  JosephCamilleri | Feb 21, 2023 |
I may have just read this too quickly, which doesn't work for Robinson books, but I didn't enjoy it quite as much as I have her previous ones. I'll have to try it again and probably will feel differently. ( )
  JBD1 | Nov 26, 2022 |
I don’t know who let Robinson get away with starting her book with 80 pages of dialogue, but it was not a good decision.

I think Robinson has always struggled to write evil, and to create evil characters. Jack is the wayward son, but he’s so good natured and smart and genuinely kind in this book.

Huge fan of hers, but I did not enjoy this book. ( )
  JohnMatthewFox | Oct 17, 2022 |
Ha innen nézem, szerelmes regény. Adott két ember, aki szereti egymást: Della és Jack. Mi baj lehet? Nos, minden. Különben a szerelmes regény nem is létezhetne. Hisz a nő tanár, a férfi pedig csavargó. De ez még hagyján! A férfi fehér, a nő fekete. Ez abban a történelmi időben pedig nem egyszerűen egy külső nehézség, amivel meg kell küzdeni, hanem konkrétan a főbűn, a társadalmi nonszensz maga. Ilyen körülmények között a kérdés nem csak az, hogy két ember hajlandó-e megküzdeni egymásért a világgal, hanem hogy kockára tehetik-e a másik egzisztenciáját egy olyan, alapvetően önző dolog miatt, mint a saját szerelmük. Mert ha csak lelépnek, az a másiknak tűrhetetlenül fáj, igaz. De ha ott maradnak, akkor lehet, tönkreteszik, akit szeretnek.

Ha meg onnan nézem, csavargóregény. Itt van ez a Jack, akit a Gilead-sorozatból már ismerünk. Ő a család fekete báránya, aki kihullott minden rostán. Tolvaj, börtöntöltelék, iszákos, rossz adós és megbízhatatlan fráter, ideje egy részében pedig még hajléktalan is. Van egyáltalán esélye arra, hogy belekapaszkodhasson valamibe? Van olyan erő, ami kimozdíthatja a permanens kudarcraítéltségből? Át tudja lépni a saját árnyékát valaki, akinek annyira a létállapotává vált a szégyen, hogy ha megbocsátanak neki, az kényelmetlen érzéssel tölti el?

Lenyűgöz Robinson bátorsága, az, ahogy mer a saját ritmusában énekelni. Ennek a könyvnek az első száz oldala tulajdonképpen nem több, mint egyetlen éjszakai beszélgetés egy temetőben a két főhős között: merő tétova tapogatózás, két ember megpróbálja kitalálni, a másik harap-e. Lehetne vontatott, de nem az, tele van élettel, olyan szívvel és ésszel skiccel fel egy emberi kapcsolatot, hogy beleszédülök. Baromi merész húzás egy ilyet megreszkírozni.

A legtöbb író a regényt olyasvalaminek tartja, amit a konfliktusok strukturálnak, náluk a szöveg általában egy dramaturgiai csúcs felé halad, a regény „csak” e csúcsokra vezető mondatlépcsők egymásutánisága. Robinson teljesen másképp képzeli el az irodalmat. Az ő regényei nem sodró folyók, hanem lágy, csendes hullámzások. Áll bennük az ember, és konkrétan érzi, lemossák róla a rosszat. Az egyik legnagyobb élő írónknak tartom. ( )
  Kuszma | Jul 2, 2022 |
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Epigraph
Dedication
First words
He was walking along almost beside her, two steps behind. She did not look back. She said, "I'm not talking to you."
Quotations
"I wonder sometimes if there would be such a thing as sin if God didn't exist."
"I'm certain of it."
"Why?"
"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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"A new Gilead novel that tells the story of John Ames Boughton, the beloved, erratic, and grieved-over prodigal son of a Presbyterian minister from Gilead, Iowa"--

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Haiku summary
Jack, au passé trouble,
Doute de lui, il aime Della
Une jeune Noire "parfaite"
(Tiercelin)

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