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Home (2008)

by Marilynne Robinson

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Gilead (2)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3,4021413,210 (3.99)598
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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English (139)  Spanish (2)  Dutch (2)  French (1)  All languages (144)
Showing 1-5 of 139 (next | show all)
5 stars. The hope that I will find a book like this one is the reason I read.

Home. A word that conveys so many different meanings that for each person it is as individual as a fingerprint. For Jack Boughton, it is a place he has run from, longed for, and never quite fit into. For his sister, Glory, it is a place she loves, wishes to escape from, but knows she will be tied to all of her life. Thomas Wolfe told us “you can never go home again”, Marilynne Robinson seems to say you can never leave home at all.

As complicated as the concept of Home is, forgiveness might be even more complicated. God dispenses grace and calls for man to forgive, but can man truly forgive? The two venerable pastors in this novel, Robert Boughton and John Ames, certainly talk about forgiveness as though it is something they understand and aspire to, but neither of them seems capable of true forgiveness. Robert can never look beyond the past to see the man Jack truly is, and, because Jack is his namesake, Ames counts every trespass as an affront to his good name. Neither of them is able to embrace the change in Jack. They look at the man, but they always and forever see the boy.

Glory, who has always struggled to understand who her elusive brother Jack was, is the one person who is able to look at who he is without flinching. She offers hope in what feels like a pretty hopeless situation. If there is a home to come to for Jack, Glory embodies it.

We wonder why the past cannot be purged, when the present and the future are so tenuous. Why is Jack back, after all these years, to endure this endless flogging? Like Robert Frost’s hired man, Jack knows ‘Home is the place where, when you have to go there,
They have to take you in.’
But, he is hoping the truth will lie in ‘I should have called it Something you somehow haven’t to deserve.’

Robinson says, "Weary or bitter or bewildered as we may be, God is faithful. He lets us wander so we will know what it means to come home." But that implies a sweetness in the homecoming that eludes these characters no matter how they try to have it otherwise.

If you come from a perfect family in which the members have always understood and loved one another, you might not register the impact of this story. If you come from a family who have loved one another, but always found understanding one another difficult, it might be like looking in a mirror. If you have ever felt outside in places that you know should have been your comfort zone, Jack will resonate with you, and if you have ever had a sibling that you loved but felt estranged from, Jack will make you cry.

I loved Robinson’s Gilead. I built my own backstory for Jack Boughton and thought I had a fair idea of who Glory and Robert were. I was anxious to know more about those characters, but what I got in Home was so much more than I could ever have imagined. Seeing Ames side of the story, and then Jack’s, was so revealing about the character of human beings, how often we view life only in the context of what it means to us, for us, when the motivation of the other person can be so different and not about “us” at all.

I am on to Lila and the final leg of this journey. I highly recommend this series to everyone who wants to grapple for a little while with the larger questions in life. Not good vs. evil, but man’s incapacity to sort good from evil, to understand the depths of the human heart, to touch another man’s soul. Glory asks Jack what he thinks the soul is, perhaps that is the question for all of us and to know the answer to our own soul we must try to understand someone else’s.

As for home, I leave you with this thought from Marilynne Robinson:

"Home. What kinder place could there be on earth, and why did it seem to them all like exile? Oh, to be passing anonymously, through an impersonal landscape! Oh not to know every stump and stone, not to remember how the fields of Queen Anne’s lace figured in the childish happiness they had offered to their father’s hopes."

Oh to carry no past, to have no hurts, no scars, no disappointments, no calamitous youth to haunt your present. Oh to be perfect and not need forgiveness, or perhaps to only be perfect enough to be able to forgive. ( )
  mattorsara | Aug 11, 2022 |
Beautifully constructed, a wonderful, pitch-perfect slice of a particular time and place. I did not love the characters the way I marveled at the characters in Gilead, but the story is heartbreaking and beautiful. ( )
  Susan_Lerner | Apr 2, 2022 |
This is a companion to the author's critically acclaimed novel Gilead. It's basically the same series of events, told from the perspective of another character. It's as if the author loved Gilead so much, she had to write a fan fiction for it :P The narrator Glory, her brother Jack, and their father Reverend Boughton, basically don't ever say what they really think and feel to each other. Everything is said in a polite, roundabout way, or half the time it's just left unsaid. I felt this is extremely unhealthy family dynamics, considering there are important issues that needs to be resolved between father and children. And at the end of the book....none of the family issues got resolved. Father and son had one straightforward talk....or at least they started to have a straightforward talk, but they both quit the conversation after seeing they didn't reach common ground. Then the son left the home for good. I'm not sure if I would have liked the book if I hadn't been a fan of Gilead. There was so much nuances in their family dynamics that was both unproductive and unnecessary. The language of the book is beautiful. The theme of racial tensions shone through here and there, especially at the very end of the book. Another theme of people's complex feelings about "home" also came through, but I didn't really understand so I can't comment much about it. ( )
  CathyChou | Mar 11, 2022 |
This novel is very intimate; it sometimes even reads like a play: everything is so concentrated in both time and place with few characters carefully appraising each other... it would look beautiful on stage.
As a book, however, I found it a bit slow and its religious themes of morality heavy. While I can definitely appreciate it overall, I found it tough to stick it through, wanting a firmer outcome. The ending also had me puzzled. While I had predicted the twist denouement, I had really stopped caring for Jack at that point and wondered if he really deserved all the indulgence he received from his sister and spouse.
I'm happy to have read it but wouldn't necessarily recommend it. ( )
  Cecilturtle | Feb 9, 2022 |
Original review 2/7/18 -- Most of the summaries and reviews of this book seem to bury the predominance of Glory's character, so when I started reading I was happily surprised to find out that the story is told from her perspective. Of course the relationship between Jack and Boughton holds sway over the plot, but it's the figure of Glory, conscientious and tearful, who I really latched onto as the heart of the thing. She embodies the whole Boughton family, both reverent and confused by religion, solitary and family-oriented, diligent and resentful. Both she and Jack are in different ways the prodigal child coming home, and both she and her father are trying to be the forgiving arms welcoming a family member back into the fold. We don't get quite as close to her innermost thoughts as we do with Ames in Gilead or Lila in her book, but Marilynne Robinson really is a master of writing around a character until their full shape becomes perfect and clear. I was especially enamored of the strangest and most intimate moments, like the pancakes at 3am, or Glory staying up with Jack until the bars closed, or Glory's numerous involuntary tears.

Re-read 12/17/20 -- I don't have much more to say that I didn't say above. This is such a beautiful book, and painful. I have Jack on hold at the library-- just checked and I'm 68th in line. I'm kind of nervous to read it, after loving this one and Lila so much. ( )
  misslevel | Sep 22, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 139 (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
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"Home to stay, Glory! Yes!" her father said, and her heart sank.
Quotations
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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