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Home (2008)

by Marilynne Robinson

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Gilead (2)

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3,6391453,267 (3.99)607
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.

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» See also 607 mentions

English (143)  Dutch (2)  Spanish (2)  French (1)  All languages (148)
Showing 1-5 of 143 (next | show all)
After finishing the book I read the reviews in the frontpiece which were so elegantly perceptive that I am certain I can't contribute any deeper analysis. I have been a Robinson fan since reading Housekeeping a very long time ago. Not much happened in that book but it was like reading poetry. The same here. Not much happens, the background is the day to day life of a brother and sister taking care of their failing father over a few weeks, but the prose just blew me away: "The words were bright as a prick of blood" (p320)"...the fierce breath of his grief" (p 298). While I don't relate to the themes and musings on the Bible and Protestantism in this pastor's family, it was nonetheless interesting. It is a sad book, an alternative title could have been 'The Stranger' for Jack always felt apart in his family and beyond. One thing is certain I will read Gilead after this. Despite the sadness a thought proviking and moving experience, thank you M.R. ( )
  amaraki | Sep 15, 2023 |
Given to Matthew Hayes - 05/11/2023
  revbill1961 | May 11, 2023 |
A deeply spiritual, sensitive and touching story, told gently but with breathtaking command. The mystical connection between the secret and the sacred, the predestined and the deserved, the possibility that God can use a man’s children to punish him for his sins, and so much more. Robinson’s work occupies a space of its own. ( )
  brook11trout | May 6, 2023 |
I read Gilead, the first novel in the Gilead series, many years ago and Jack, the last book in the quartet, in 2020. This, the second book, revisits Gilead but from a different perspective.

Glory Boughton, 38, has returned to Gilead, Iowa, after a broken engagement and an abandoned career. She is now caring for her aging and increasingly frail father, Reverend Robert Boughton. Then the black sheep son Jack returns as well, after an absence of twenty years. Robert is thrilled at the return of his prodigal son but reconnection is initially hesitant and awkward. What is heartwarming is the gradual understanding and acceptance that grows between Glory and her brother.

It is the character of Jack that most interested me, though perhaps my understanding of him is coloured by my having read Jack. He describes himself as a scoundrel and admits to being a thief, liar, and confirmed drunk. He does have positive traits; his kindness and intelligence are certainly obvious. What is also clear is that he is a lonely, lost soul. Glory’s description of her brother as “A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, and as one from whom men hide their face” is perfect.

It is impossible not to have sympathy for Jack. He has felt like a misfit his entire life, never at ease with his siblings, a “child who didn’t feel at home in the house where he was born.” He has an overpowering sense of worthlessness, believing that he does harm and causes misery: “’I create a kind of displacement around myself as I pass through the world, which can fairly be called trouble.’”

I was also interested in the character of the minister, an old man living his last days. The extent of his forbearance is almost unbelievable. He sees his son’s delinquency as his failing as a father, “taking the bitterness of it all on himself and sparing his miscreant son.” His love for his son is obvious: “’I thanked God for him, every day of his life, no matter how much grief, how much sorrow - . ’” Seeing his son suffer is “’like watching a child die in your arms.’” Of course, there are touches of humour in his portrayal: he is “a little less sensitive than he ought to have been to the risk of repeating himself.”

Yet my opinion of Jack’s father is tainted by his views of Blacks. His comments suggest a blindness, emphasized by his oft-closed eyes: “’I have nothing against the colored people. I do think they’re going to need to improve themselves, though, if they want to be accepted. I believe that is the only solution.’” He accuses the Blacks of provoking violence even if their protests are non-violent. When Jack mentions having met some very fine Black Christians, Rev. Boughton says, “’Then we can’t have done so badly by them, can we?’” His statement that “’I think we had all better just keep to ourselves’” is very telling. Ironically, it is the Jack, the unbelieving sinner, who speaks with the voice of justice, not his supposedly wise and pious father.

The conversations about the treatment of Blacks suggest that Jack has several reasons for returning home. Doubtless he is looking for refuge, searching for home, to belong somewhere. He may want to make peace with his father, but it also seems that he is wondering if his relationship with Della would be accepted in Gilead. The ending does suggest some hope: Glory imagines a house where she can someday openly welcome Robert.

As the title suggests, the book examines what is home and whether it is possible to come home. For Glory, coming home has been an admittance of defeat: “Home. What kinder place could there be on earth, and why did it seem to them all like exile.” Coming home may not provide the comfort one seeks: “But the soul finds its own home if it ever has a home at all.”

Because the novel gets bogged down in dry discussions of scripture and sermons, it is slow in places, just like Robinson’s other books in the series. Nonetheless, I think that Home should be read after Gilead which clarifies the Jack and John Ames relationship. And Jack provides the most intimate view of the prodigal son. Together the three novels emphasize how easy it is to misunderstand and misjudge people.

Note: Please check out my reader's blog (https://schatjesshelves.blogspot.com/) and follow me on Twitter (@DCYakabuski). ( )
  Schatje | Mar 30, 2023 |
Follow-up to Gilead, this book opens twenty years later at the Boughton family home in Iowa, as prodigal son Jack returns. Reverend Robert Boughton, a Presbyterian minister, is old and frail. Jack’s sister, Glory, is taking care of him. She had also returned after a failed romance. The storyline involves Glory and Jack getting to know each other as adults, and their father declining in health. We learn more about Jack’s missing years, his struggle with alcohol addiction, and his relationship history.

This book is character-driven and is reflective in tone. Even though it is based on the Biblical “prodigal son” story, it is not a book that requires religious belief, just a willingness to read about others’ beliefs. Obviously the Reverend is a devout Christian, but Jack has drifted away from the church. At one point, there is an intense theological discussion between two religious men and an agnostic. The people in this novel are realistic and I felt immersed in their story. The pacing is deliberate, and the writing is beautiful. If you enjoyed Gilead, you will very likely enjoy Home. ( )
  Castlelass | Jan 26, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 143 (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 (10 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Robinson, Marilynneprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Kampmann, EvaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Reed, Maggie-MegNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vlek, RonaldTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For Noah and Elise
and for Beatrice
First words
"Home to stay, Glory! Yes!" her father said, and her heart sank.
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.
How all the brothers and sisters except Jack had loved to come home, and how ready they always were to leave again.
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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.

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