Review (kind of): Home

I don’t really know where to start, or what to say. That’s probably the best evidence of having encountered great art.

I have read Gilead again, Marilynne Robinson’s masterpiece that first confronted me with its gentle wisdom a year ago. (I’m giving ‘gentle’ the Biblical/Greek meaning of great power under control.) Then I read its sequel/accompaniment, Home, which stood similarly before me without in any way seeming to need me. Making me a spectator, showing me life’s desperate need for faith, hope and love, and the pain which they, by their presence or absence, will cause.

They are two very different novels, though their timescale and cast of characters are essentially the same. The focus moves from the narrator/hero(?) of Gilead to the family of his friend, principally a daughter and a son. The house of the title is quiet and awkward, echoing the lives gathered within. Little happens, and nothing that would matter beyond the building’s walls, but it means the world inside them. So your patience is required, and will be rewarded.

The theme of prodigals runs deep through both, Job’s suffering too. Robinson’s Christianity informs every line without ever seeming to preach, in the worst sense of the word. It’s a gift I wish I had. To the frustration of those who want answers to everything, this is not a meditation on why things happen that we wish didn’t, it is a description of such things and attempts to live through them. That makes it profoundly sad and real. If it seems to lack the perfection of Gilead, that is perhaps because its perspective is so different. Different but indissolubly related, like the other side of a coin.

“So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13) If you have any interest in those words, you should read these books. And there I go preaching again.