Home – Marilynne Robinson, copyright 2008.
Source: Private Collection – Bought Used
It would seem that despite my ravenous reading, I am only just beginning to understand what Literary Fiction truly is. It only really occurred to me after I finished Marilynne Robinson’s Home last month that my interest in what many people would consider “true” literary fiction might not be so fervent. I know a lack of plot is characteristic of literary fiction, but Marilynne Robinson seemed to take this a little far. It felt as though there was an absence of any sort of plot at all. I don’t need a whole lot to carry me through the story, but I do require that something happen.
Jack Boughton, alcoholic, scoundrel and all around black-sheep, arrives back on his father’s doorstep after having quite literally disappeared for most of the last twenty years. Glory, the baby of the family, has just arrived home herself after the tumultuous end of her engagement and is unsure what to make of her brother’s return. Glory is concerned that Jack’s appearance may do more to upset their ailing father, a retired Presbyterian minister, than it will to benefit anyone. Knowing little of each others’ lives over the past two decades, these two siblings are faced with the paradox of being strangers in their own childhood home. Jack is also faced with the terrifying task of trying to make amends with his father, especially now with their worldviews having grown so far apart (The story is set in the 1960s during the time of the Civil Rights Movement) Reverend Boughton’s disappointment in his son seems to have a never ending supply of fuel, despite the fact that he cherishes Jack like no other. While patching things up with his father becomes increasingly more difficult, Jack begins to build a bond with Glory that may prove to be just what is lacking in both their lives. It is through this bond, that we come to learn more about their elusive pasts.
“She did not remember from her childhood the habit he had now of running the tip of his tongue across his lower lip, but she thought she did remember that estrangement of his gaze, that look of urgent calculation, of sharply attentive calm. It could only be fear, and she wanted to say, You can trust me…” Home, page 85.
I don’t want to give this book a bad review, simply because it didn’t meet my standards or, perhaps more correctly, my tastes. The truth is Marilynne Robinson writes more beautifully than almost any author I have read. Her attentiveness to every detail permeates her poignant and soothing prose. Her characters were truly wonderful; I knew and loved each one of them. I could well have been another one of the many siblings in their robust family and could undoubtedly have walked into this loving, albeit tension filled, abode and made myself at home (no pun intended) Despite its serious lack of plot, the story is a very graceful commentary on faith, family and the power of forgiveness that many readers will embrace immediately for it’s familiarity.
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