Monday, October 4, 2010

Marilynne Robinson's Home

Marilynne Robinson's Home

Marilynne Robinson is an American writer from Idaho, a state which borders on BC. Her first novel, Housekeeping, about a family haunted by an accident in which a train derailed into a lake, was made into a movie filmed in Nelson, BC. Her second novel, Gilead, won the Pulitzer, and this one, Home, the Orange Prize.

Set in a small town called Gilead, Iowa in the 1950s, Home takes place almost completely in one house (plus the porch, the garden, the barn, and a short distance down the road). The house belongs to Robert Boughton, a widower and retired Presbyterian minister, father of six. The youngest, 38-year-old Glory, has returned home to look after her father. They are joined by Jack, the prodigal son, gone for twenty years, and trailing clouds of uncertainty and shame. There is not a great deal of action. People wait, have breakfast, coffee, meals; they weed the garden and work on an old car. They watch the traffic move down the road and listen when a vehicle stops. They buy a television, watch baseball, and news reports of the beginnings of the civil rights movement in the South. This is a story about parent/child and sibling relationships and about friendship. They discuss philosophy and theology, issues such as fate, predestination, soul, and grace. But what keeps the reader going, what you want to know, is what did happen and what will happen, because you care about these people. And you feel the tension, of a home, a family, on the edge.

This novel Home next to Cormac McCarty's The Road is a perfect representation of the House/Horse dichotomy—how women write about houses and security, about coming home, and men write about horses and adventure, leaving loved ones behind. Yet Robinson makes it clear, through plot, character, and philosophical/theological discussions, that whether making a home or escaping from one, we are all on the same road.

1 comment:

Bridget said...

In the book, they are Adirondak chairs and potted petunias. This rocker sits on someone's porch near the post office in my home town. jmb


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