Home

by Marilynne Robinson

Paper Book, 2009

Status

Available

Series

Genres

Publication

London : Virago, 2009.

Description

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.

Media reviews

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.
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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.
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.
Booklist
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.

User reviews

LibraryThing member dchaikin
The quick summary is that this is Reverend Robert Boughton’s story from Gilead. If you’re familiar with Gilead that, while not entirely accurate, makes sense. This book perfectly parallels Gilead, her previous novel, to the point of recreating conversations word-for-word. Actually, it seems that the essence of Home must have been composed as part of the process of making Gilead. And that is commentary on how much Robinson put into Gilead– which, by the way, was published about 24 years after her previous novel.

However, it’s not Robert Boughton’s story, it only takes place in his home. This is Jacks story again – he’s the complex and guarded character who took over the later part of Gilead. Jack is the prodigal-son of sorts – the one problem child of eight Boughton children, the one closest to his father’s heart, and his father’s biggest failure. The one who comes home after a 20-year absence, just as his father seems about at the end of life.

Gilead is Rev John Ames story, and there we only understand Jack at a distance in the few things Jack will tell Ames and no one else. Here we see Jack close up, through the eyes of his younger sister, Glory. It’s Glory’s voice who colors this novel, and gives it a very different feel from Gilead. Where Ames was a carefully expressive with a deeply refined theology, Glory is bottled emotions occasionally brimming with tears, but mostly held silent – conforming to the apparent general restraint of Robinson’s 1950’s era Gilead, Iowa. She also conforms to the selfless caretaking roll of single women in 1950’s Iowa. (It’s worth noting both Ames and Glory seem strikingly naive.)

Glory is home to take care of her aging father – who is reduced to secondary character in his own book – a somewhat skewered one at that. She sees Jack and Robert and their careful interactions, and she gives us a complex character study of her family – one of outward kindness, hidden emotions and unspoken tension. Over the course of the novel, she is able to develop an intimate relationship with Jack, and it’s this, I think, that makes the novel beautiful. But, she only can see so much. When we close the book, we still don’t understand Jack. He remains a mystery internally.

Overall I enjoyed Home immensely – although I had prep myself. Like Gilead, this isn’t a book that calls to you. It’s soft and subtle, and you need to come to it in the right state of mind. But it won me over, and left me curious enough that I immediately found myself re-reading Gilead. And, honestly, I didn’t love Gilead the first time.
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LibraryThing member mrstreme
Home, the 2009 Orange Prize Winner by Marilynne Robinson, was an alternate story to Gilead. While Gilead was a love letter from Reverend John Ames to his son, Robby, Home was the story about Ames’ best friend, Robert Boughton, and his family. It was a clever look at both families, and the peak at small-town life reminded me a bit of Winesburg, Ohio. While I thought Gilead was an okay read, I enjoyed Home much more.

Told from the perspective of Glory Boughton, this book explored the sometimes-complicated relationships between fathers and sons. Reverend Robert Boughton was aging, taken care of by his daughter, Glory, and was getting the surprise of his lifetime – the return of his long-lost son, Jack. Jack was always the wayward son – a thief, drunkard and reckless man. Despite Jack’s flaws, his father always considered him his favorite. Jack had not seen his father in 20 years, and his return home overjoyed his ailing father.

But soon enough, and despite Jack’s best efforts, his return conjured up too many bad memories, and the missteps from Jack’s past continued to haunt him at home. His relationship with his father never took off, and his efforts to make Reverend Ames proud of him fell short.

The theme of returning home was prevalent throughout this story. Jack and Glory had returned home, and “home” brought different emotions for both siblings. For Jack, it was a reminder of his mistakes in a town that always cast suspicion on him. For Glory, it was a reminder of her failure to marry and have children, and reaffirmed her responsibility to keep up the Boughton home for her siblings once their father died – so they too could have a sense of home whenever they wanted.

Home was an intensely emotional book – often complicated to read because of the theological conversations – but one I wish I could have read in college, with the benefit of a professor to guide me through. Home may be where the heart is, but for many, it’s just a memory that’s best left in the past. Read Home is you want to take a painful journey of returning home and reconnecting with family – for better or worst.
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LibraryThing member zibilee
Glory Boughton has come home to Gilead to care for her dying father, the Reverend Robert Boughton. As Glory strives to fulfill her father's exacting demands, she laments the loss of her fiancé and former life, all the while regretting her move back to her stagnant hometown. One morning, the Reverend receives a letter from his wayward son Jack, telling his father that he will soon be returning home. The letter comes very much as a surprise and blessing for the Reverend, as Jack has been absent for 20 years and has had no communication with the family. Jack's history of rebelliousness is long and fraught with shame and pain among the family, and as Jack moves ever homeward, those he left behind struggle with the hope of reunion. As Glory and her father prepare for Jack's arrival, they both find themselves thinking of past hurts and are ever hopeful that Jack's homecoming will be a much needed balm to his father's suffering spirit. But Jack's homecoming is not easy, and it soon becomes apparent that although his father wishes for nothing more than to forgive his son, he cannot. Jack, a quiet and emotionally wounded man, brings with him secrets of his own, and as Glory begins to forge a tentative relationship with him, they both come to find that the peace and contentment they so long for in their family will come at a very dear price. In this poignant tale of the prodigal son, Robinson takes us into the hearts and minds of a family that is at fierce work to be whole, to a place where redemption and reparation are so desperately desired, but unable to come to fruition.

This was an absolutely beautiful book. There were several sections where I found myself so moved by the drama unfolding on the pages that I couldn't help but cry. Robinson writes with such grace and tact that it is impossible not to be moved by her characters' quiet proclamations and heartfelt utterances. Whether it is the sorrow of a life that has been forsaken or the terrible humbleness of Jack's return, the writing is replete with wellsprings of sentiment and passion. The words are quiet and serene, but just underneath the surface I was witnessing torrents of ragged emotion and years of suppressed pain.

The Reverend, ever hopeful and gentle with his children, cannot seem to ever be able to wrap his mind around what it is that his son needs. Although he longs to give his son the forgiveness that he has come home for, he is unable to let the transgressions of the past be unburdened from his heart and give his son peace. It is such a juxtaposition, to see the tenderness that he expresses toward Jack, all the while withholding the one thing that his son most desperately needs, the thing that is so hard for him to ask for. He is constantly at odds with himself, his heart longing to grant pardon and his head ever refusing. It broke my heart to watch these two men fumble so blindly with their intentions, to see them both in so much pain but be unable to express it or relieve it.

Jack, despite being the miscreant in this tale, was the one character whom I felt the most for. He was so spiritually depleted and it seemed as if all of his hope had been abandoned. He was quiet and gentle, yes, but also pitifully humbled and sorrowfully contrite. He seemed to worry himself to distraction, mostly about what others thought of him or what they would think. There was a quiet struggle taking place within: his need for acceptance and forgiveness pitted against his need for self-preservation and secrecy. He had a wry and very self-deprecating attitude in his interactions with Glory, a way of making both more and less of the situations that he found himself in. In his desire for his father's blessing he seemed to expect the wounds he would incur, believing in some way that he deserved them.

I also really liked how the view of Jack from Glory's eyes gave his character more depth. The relationship between the two was fraught with tension, but it was there that Jack seemed to open up. Though he would never really reveal all of his secrets, his attempts to reach out to Glory brought the gentleness and meekness of his character into full relief.

Though I found the last section of the book to be the most emotional section, there were several instances when an ordinary situation would provoke a response from one of the characters that was deeply affecting. Reading this book was much like walking in a minefield; I never knew when something was going to come out and grab me and shake me to the core. During one of the more touching arguments between father and son, the Reverend, full of sorrow, exclaims to his son, "If I'd had to die without seeing your face again, I'd have doubted the goodness of the Lord." The fact that this statement comes from a man of the cloth makes it all the more powerful and affecting. What the book really boils down to is the conundrum of a man of God refusing his most beloved child release, the child in turn unable to finally give his father the peace he so obviously needs. But it is within the framework of this story that Robinson drives her characters to strive and twist in their yearnings to exist as a family complete, a situation that sadly never comes to pass.

I really felt strongly for this book, and I think that anyone who enjoys literature steeped with emotion would enjoy it too. Robinson touches profoundly on the themes of forgiveness, absolution and regret with beautiful accuracy, making this a very quiet but stunning read. This book is a companion to Robinson's 2004 novel Gilead. Both books take place at the same time, so it's not necessary to read them in any particular order. Highly recommended.
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LibraryThing member blackhornet
Give me just the basic outline of this novel and I wouldn't even pick it up: a middle-aged brother and sister, disappointed and failed in life, return to the family home, now inhabited solely by their dying clergyman father. They talk a bit, they argue a bit, and at the end something approaching plot happens.

But wow! What an awesome novel. Robinson has the verbal precision of Philip Roth at his best, only the world about which she writes is muted, soft, understated, where Roth's is bold and confrontational. I think that is where the power in the novel lies. The reader is never made privy to the inner hurt that the brother and sister are feeling. We can only wonder at the torments they are going through as they tentatively negotiate a way round their disappointments. All this in a very unusual third person style, in which the sister, Glory, is ever-present, but somehow secondary in much of what is said to her brother and father. But that, I guess, is the point: this woman who was never able to take control of her life. Ah, Glory!… (more)
LibraryThing member porch_reader
Home reunites us with characters from Robinson's Pulitzer-prize winning Gilead. This time the focus is on Reverand Robert Boughton (friend of John Ames, the narrator of Gilead). Boughton's daughter, Glory, has come home to care for him in the last weeks of his life. Unexpectedly, Boughton's son, Jack, also comes home after a twenty year absence. Together, Jack and Glory attempt to come to terms with the past and care for their father in his last days.

Robinson has many strengths as an author. Her writing is beautiful, never hurried. She excels at conveying a sense of place and character. But in this book, it is the space between the characters that is described with the most precision. The events of the past and present come together to create multi-layered relationships between the characters. Glory, formerly Jack's kid sister who looked up to him, now takes on a role of support and guidance. Reverand Boughton (or as Jack refers to him, the Old Gent) remains the center of his household, but comes to rely on Glory and even Jack for basic needs.

This is not a book in which a lot happens. The plot is not the main point. But Robinson put us inside the heads and hearts of Glory, Jack, and Reverand Boughton, helping us understand each of them through their relationships with each other.
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LibraryThing member Tess22
I feel I'm missing something here - so many people have got so much out of this book but I don't see it. I liked Gilead a lot and this is an interesting companion with excellent characterisation but nothing happens. Plot isn't usually the thing I put most emphasis on but this moves so slowly it feels like wading through syrup.

Perhaps this book means more to people who understand more about theology than I do. I appreciate that some of the religious themes and discussions passed right over my head. Still, this wasn't a problem when I read Gilead, and Home is really more about family and relationships.

By the end I felt so frustrated by the lack of events that I even became frustrated by the characters I liked and was hurrying to the end. Then I was further frustrated by the questions that went unanswered. I'm puzzled because usually I like books that focus on characterisation and that have unresolved endings, but in this case I'm just left irritated.
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LibraryThing member lauralkeet
At 38 years old, Glory Boughton has returned to Gilead, Iowa to care for her aging father, the Reverend Robert Boughton. Boughton is a retired Presbyterian minister, and a good friend of the Congregationalist minister, John Ames (the main character in Robinson's Pulitzer-winning book, Gilead). Glory is recovering from a failed relationship and is simultaneously resentful of and thankful for her new routine. One day, her older brother Jack comes back into her life after 20 years away from the family. Jack had a troubled youth in Gilead, and his years away not been much better. He has been in jail, he has an alcohol problem, and there is a lingering issue regarding his relationship with a woman named Della.

It's not clear just why Jack decided to return to Gilead, but both Glory and his father decide to give him a chance. The story moves along at a leisurely pace, much like a lazy summer day. Jack finds much-needed stability, tending to the garden and minor repairs around the house. Glory finds companionship, love, and understanding that she didn't think possible from Jack. And yet, Jack's demons never completely leave him. His status with Della is uncertain. While he achieves a kind of reconciliation with his father, tensions do flare from time to time as Robert is unable to completely let go of past hurts. Jack's relationship with John Ames is also tenuous. Eventually, Jack takes the only reasonable action to alleviate his pain, although as the reader we know it will never really go away.

This is a sad, moving, and yet also surprisingly uplifting book of family relationships, redemption, and grace. Highly recommended.
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LibraryThing member laytonwoman3rd
There’s a song Emmylou Harris sings, which I love. It kept creeping into my mind as I read this profoundly moving book. “Beneath still waters, there’s a strong undertow. The surface won’t tell you What the deep waters know.” [Home] is, on the surface, the story of three emotionally wounded members of a large Heartland family, living as best they can through the father’s final days in the mid-1950’s.. The frail and failing Reverend Robert Boughton is dying, unencumbered by medical attention; his 38-year-old daughter Glory, has come home to care for him; Jack, the son who has never quite fit comfortably into the family, arrives to “stay for a while” after a 20 year absence. All three harbor deep-seated pain with origins in past events, some of which are left mainly to the reader’s imagination. What happened to alienate Jack from his family and his home town? Why has he come home now---is he hiding from something, or seeking something? How is Glory free to pull up stakes and move back in with Papa? What’s become of her husband? How did Reverend Boughton “lose” his church? Are the forces beneath the surface pulling each of them toward
a predestined fate?

Robinson’s skill at characterization is remarkable, because this book could have been a crashing bore. Most of the action is mental or emotional. Very little happens. Glory and Jack and the “Old Gent” strive to be polite and kind to one another, relying on formality to ease their awkwardness, trying at first to avoid subjects fraught with harsh memory. Even so, the pitfalls are numerous, needs and expectations clash, and nearly every conversation ends with an apology for some small act or utterance. Time passes slowly, routinely, and the relationships evolve. As tense and bewildering as the family dynamics are, being among the Boughtons is not unpleasant. They all try so hard to get it right, most of the time. There is a lot of Christian theology fitted into this story. By that I do not mean preaching, I mean it fits into the story, as part and parcel of who these characters are. I was a bit put off by the very last sentence of the book, and for that I withheld the last half star.

[Home] is often referred to as a companion novel to Robinson’s earlier [Gilead], which I have not yet read. This novel has no problem standing alone, but it does rather beg the question of why Reverend Boughton’s old friend John Ames has so little enthusiasm for Jack’s return even though he knows what it means to Jack’s father. I understand Gilead is Ames’ story, and I now want very much to read that.
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LibraryThing member lit_chick
2008, MacMillian Audio, Read by Maggi-Meg Reed

Home takes place concurrently and in the same locale as its predecessor, Gilead – but this time we visit the household of the Reverend Robert Broughton, Ames’ closest friend. Glory Broughton, the Reverend’s eldest daughter at 38, has returned home to care for her dying father. And soon Jack, the long-lost prodigal son of the family, gone for two decades, comes home too – looking for refuge and attempting to make peace with his past, scarred with torment.

Jack is an alcoholic – a bad boy from childhood – who cannot hold a job. Thought he is his father’s most beloved child, their relationship is a most uneasy one: Jack ever at odds with his traditionalist father. He does form a moving bond with Glory while the two care for the aging patriarch – but she is unable to help him in any real way – in spite of his pleas that she help him stay sober.

Admittedly, Marilynne Robinson is not one of my favourite authors, but there is no doubt she can write! These are richly developed characters, particularly Jack, who is unforgettable. I disagree with the publisher’s summary in part: Home is a moving and healing book about families, family secrets, and the passing of the generations, about love and death and faith. I did not find much evidence of healing in the novel, save for perhaps the last quarter of it. But certainly family secrets abound, and it is a moving read about love, death, and faith. Recommended.
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LibraryThing member bell7
Jack Boughton is coming home. He's always been the odd one out in a large family, yet his father, Reverend Boughton, and the rest of the family couldn't help but love him and worry about him. Now, after twenty years' absence, he returns to Gilead and his father and his youngest sister, Glory, who has also returned home and is now caring for their aging father.

Many of the events of this story are also told in the companion book, [Gilead]. This is primarily from Glory's perspective, however, and the portrait of Jack is rather different if no less poignant. Your heart breaks for the boy - and man - who feels that he is past all redemption, who expects that behind every loving word is a rebuke. The brother-sister dynamics between Jack and Glory as they dance around and try not to insult each other is spot on. I couldn't help but compare and contrast this story with the parable of the prodigal son, though exactly who is the prodigal in Home could keep a conversation going for a long time.
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LibraryThing member emily_morine
Full disclosure: Marilynne Robinson's Gilead is one of my favorite novels of all time, so I'm hardly coming to its companion, Home, with fresh eyes. I was nervous about starting Home, as a matter of fact: nervous it wouldn't live up to Gilead's precedent, and that I would inevitably be disappointed, even with a very good book. In fact, that wasn't what happened at all. For one thing, despite its relative lack of action, I absolutely could not put down Home and read it in just a few days. For another, I found that the two novels speak to each other in unique and thought-provoking ways. They are very different, and much of what I found magical about Gilead is absent from Home. Yet Home gave me a new perspective on the story I first heard in Gilead; and on finishing it, I'm almost convinced to privilege the second telling despite being seduced by the style of its brother. The first book, interestingly, is a closing, a coming-to-terms with a full life about to end, in which old demons are acknowledged and absorbed in the overflowing of new love. The second is a continuous and desperate struggle, very much engaged, still, in the business of living in the flawed and often cruel world.

Both novels are set in the same place, over the same stretch of time. In a small Iowa town in the mid-1950's, two minister friends are growing old: John Ames, the Congregationalist minister, and Robert Boughton, the former leader of the Presbyterian flock.


"There were so many jokes between them. Once when they were boys in seminary they were walking across a bridge, arguing about some point of doctrine. A wind had blown her father's hat into the water, and he had rolled up his pant legs and walked in the river after it, not gaining on it at all, still disputing, as it sailed along in the current. "I was winning that argument!" her father said.



""Well, I was laughing too hard to keep up my side of it." The hat finally caught on a snag, and that was the whole story, but it always made them laugh. The joke seemed to be that once they were very young and now they were very old, and that they had been the same day after day and were somehow at the end of it all so utterly changed."

Ames is the narrator of Gilead, and one of the most stunning things about that book is his wise, lyrical narrative voice. He's wrapping up loose ends the best he can, and preparing for death: he finds himself, at the end of his life, unexpectedly married, with a young son, and the purpose of his narrative is to relay the story of the Ames family to his child, so young Robby will know his roots. It's an extremely intimate narration, infused with love and quietness. Even as it tells of the past theological struggles in the Ames family, between John's father and grandfather during the time of the Civil War, the current John Ames speaks out of calm, in the last stages of making peace with his life.

Home, on the other hand, while also quiet by most standards, is told in a third-person narration that centers on a trio, not a single person. Just down the street from Ames and his young wife and son, his old friend Reverend Boughton welcomes his middle-aged daughter Glory, who is leaving her own disappointed hopes in order to care for her father in his old age. Shortly thereafter, the Reverend's best-loved and prodigal son Jack also returns, "to stay awhile." Both brother and sister have secrets, wounds from their former lives which they hold close to themselves and only gradually reveal to one another. And even though the Reverend is nearing the end of his life, just like his old friend, he doesn't seem to have Ames' peace. He is tortured with guilt and worry over the unresolved grief in his life, and his inability to come to terms with Jack's mistakes - either to forgive his son, or to stop loving him. Neither is he able to engage with the struggles in Jack's own life that are tormenting him, and thereby achieve the connection with his son that he so craves. For those who come to Home from Gilead, and therefore know what Jack is keeping from his family, there are many heartbreaking moments between father and son, in which the reader knows that the stakes are much higher - or, at least different, more complicated - than Reverend Boughton realizes:


"Jack watched him for a moment. Then he said, "I heard you all laughing about that magazine. It's pretty foolish, all in all. Could I see it for a second? Thanks. I thought he made one interesting point in here somewhere, though. He said the seriousness of American Christianity was called into question by our treatment of the Negro. It seems to me that there is something to be said for that idea."


Boughton said, "Jack's been looking at television."


"Yes, I have. And I have lived in places where there are Negro people. They are very fine Christians, many of them."

Boughton said, "Then we can't have done so badly by them, can we? That is the essential thing."

Jack looked at him, then he laughed. "I'd say we've done pretty badly. Especially by Christian standards. As I understand them." Jack sank back into his chair as if he were the most casual man on earth and said, "What do you think, Reverend Ames."

Ames looked at him. "I have to agree with you. I'm not really familiar with the issue. I haven't been following the news as closely as I once did. But I agree."

"It isn't exactly news--" Jack smiled and shook his head. "Sorry, Reverend," he said. Robby brought the tractor to show him, let him work the steering wheel, ran the tractor along the arm and over the back of the chair.

Boughton said, "I don't believe in calling anyone's religion into question because he has certain failings. A blind spot or two. There are better ways to talk about these things.""


One of the things I love about both versions of the Gilead/Home story is the complex way it's engaged with issues of race: even in this rural, middle-American town (so homogeneous that Glory says "There aren't any colored people in Gilead"), the scars of American racial cruelty reach deep into both the Ames and Boughton stories, estranging fathers and sons throughout the generations. This seems to me a profound truth about oppression: Martin Luther King said, famously, that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere, and Robinson makes the point that injustice anywhere is also a threat to human connection, to communion among family members, even those living sheltered lives hundreds of miles away from the apparent sites of conflict.

But she also portrays how complicated it is even to address, let alone resolve, these issues, because they involve different versions of "right" colliding. Reverend Boughton, Jack and Glory are all sympathetic characters who love each other - and that can only get them so far. Not to go on a name-dropping extravaganza, but I think it was Hegel who pointed out that tragic conflict is often not the collision of Right and Wrong, but of Right and Right: two different sets of priorities and principles, two parties acting according to their consciences, are unable to budge from the collision course they've set. By these standards Home isn't an unmitigated tragedy: the characters, through their quiet struggles, are able to approach one another more closely and come to some degree of peace before the story ends. But there is a tragic underpinning, a gulf between these people that cannot be wholly traversed. Throughout it all, though, Robinson is so perceptive and subtle in her depictions, and so lyrical in her prose, that the elements of tragedy and quiet triumph come together in a work of great beauty.
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LibraryThing member detailmuse
In this second novel set in the 1950s fictional small town of Gilead, Iowa, 38-year-old Glory, the youngest of eight children, narrates her return home to care for her aged, widowed father -- and the return of her brother, Jack, whose homecoming has been prayed-for by their father, despite Jack having caused nothing but lifelong trouble and heartbreak and then 20 years of estrangement. “I’m so tired of myself,” Jack says, midway through the novel…and so was everyone else, and so was I. Good writing!

I liked Gilead and I loved Home. The characters and some of the events of Gilead are recast here in Glory’s and Jack’s perspectives, which fascinate me and make me want to re-read Gilead. I have already downloaded library audio of the third novel, Lila.
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LibraryThing member karieh
I had to skim back over my review of “Gilead” before I wrote this review. I remembered liking that book a great deal...but had to refresh my memory as to exactly why. Even if it's not fair to compare an author's current book to his/her previous one(s) – with the same characters in “Home”, it's impossible not to.

Where I found “Gilead” to be full of joy and simple wonder, “Home” is full of loss and regret and quiet but tortured grief. The feelings are just as real, but the intensity is so muted as to be almost subdued. Possibly it's because this book is in the third person, as opposed to “Gilead” - but there's something else. Again, it's the same place, the same characters, but there's something so tightly closed off that the reader feels at arm's length from the emotions.

I suppose I'd consider the main character of “Home” to be Glory Boughton, although the focus of the book is her brother Jack...a fact not lost on Glory. Jack, the prodigal son, has returned home, as she has, to the last part of their father's life. The book focuses on Reverend Boughton's relationship with his most beloved and most troubled child, and almost as an aside, the struggle Glory has in dealing with being constantly on the sidelines of most of the relationships of her life.

“Her whole life long that house was either where Jack might not be or where he was not. Why did he leave? Where had he gone? Those questions had hung in the air for twenty years while everyone tried to ignore them, had tried to act as if their lives were of sufficient interest to distract them...”

The time period was interesting to me. The story takes place in the 1960's, but while the rest of the country is experiencing the civil rights movement – in this small Iowa town, it feels at times if it's the 1860's. Where Glory, a 38-year old school teacher is seen as an old maid, life practically over, and where riding in a car is a major event.

Robinson's descriptions of the town and the family home are so that one can practically smell the lemon wax and sun warmed wood.

“The room was filled with those things that seemed to exist so that children can be forbidden to touch them – porcelain windmills and pagodas and china dogs...”

“She saw him put his hand on the shoulder of their mother's chair, touch the fringe on a lampshade, as if to confirm for himself that the uncanny persistence of half-forgotten objects, all in their old places, was not some trick of the mind.”

There's a sense of hopelessness in “Home”. That in a world where things are changing, sometimes faster than the world seems ready for, this town, this place, is stuck in time. The characters' lives are set, their roles in the family...their relationships with one another. No matter the fierce desire for reconciliation or recognition of past events...nothing seems to change.

“The dark little room smelled strongly of whiskey and sweat. It seemed almost domestic, and yet there was a potency of loneliness about about it like a dark spirit, a soul that had improvised this crude tabernacle to stand in the place of other shelter, flesh.”

The characters live so close to one another, but they remain so far apart that the might as well be strangers. Where in some cases home is the place where one can escape the world and be comforted and healed, this home re-opens the old wounds in ways that will never mend.

“Jack sat pondering his father, and there was something in his face more absolute than gentleness or compassion, something purged of all the words that might describe it.”

“Home” was like looking back on the past...a past that we've left behind but that these characters are trapped in. This gentle cage of home has bars that can be seen through, and sometimes reached through, but never escaped.

At least not in life they won't.
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LibraryThing member MindfulOne
To experience this book fully, it is best if you've read Gilead first. It stands on its own well, but having familiarity with Gilead will add a dimension to understanding the characters, particularly Rev. Ames. I did not note as many lyrical passages in Home as I did in Gilead, but throughout the book an aching sense of love and loss resonated. I began to cry around page 225, when Jack is searching for affirmation that change is possible, even for the seemingly incorrigible. This story was sad, and gentle, and beautiful.… (more)
LibraryThing member BobNolin
A novel about the hypocrisy of a self-satisfied, sanctimonious, righteous father who does not slaughter the fatted calf when his long lost son at last comes home, but instead showers him with his bile and resentment. Not many reviewers see this book that way, but I do. See, I am Jack. I am lost, and need to be found. I am not simply evil, or malicious. I take no joy in my pain, nor the pain I cause you. Jack's father, the preacher, has lived a life of pre-provided answers and ease. He fails his test to help his son, to be a Christian. His sister Glory reaches out to him, and he begins to respond to love. But the old man keeps sticking the knife in and twisting it, refusing to let go of the past, to forgive.

This book breaks a few of the rules beginning writers are taught. 1. Show, don't tell. 2. The protagonist must change by the story's end. Only a writer this talented could get away with breaking rule 1. As for the second, since no one changes, we are left with a polemic, a moral lesson, and a very long one at that. If that was Robinson's purpose here, a short story of thirty pages or so could've done the job. The book was at least 100 pages too long, and really needed some more variety in the "beats". Drinking coffee, "laughing," laying down for a rest...it got old and almost silly after awhile. They must have drunk 50 gallons of coffee in this book.

Highly over-rated book, in my opinion. It's high-toned intelligence may have awed many, I suppose. How else to explain writers like this and Smiley? I'd like to see Robinson tackle a book with real scenes, with people acting real, and not just writing exposition for page after page. Show us what you got.
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LibraryThing member solla
This is a companion book to Gilead. The subject matter is the same, but Gilead was from the point of view of a minister who knew he was soon to die and had found happiness in marriage and a child at an older age. That book was partly concerned with the son of his best friend, who was kind of a prodigal son, and whether it was possible for him to forgive the son. This book is told from the point of view of the prodigal son's sister, and tells about him coming home for a while and his struggle to feel home. Both books are very quiet in a way. Home was the harder for me to read, in the same way that it was hard for me to read the short story, the Yellow Dress, by Virginia Woolf. In that short story the self-consciousness was evoked so well, it was difficult for someone to read who shares it, and likewise, the sense of not being able to take home for granted, or never quite being able to settle in and trust it, is expressed so well that it is a little hard for me to take.… (more)
LibraryThing member AlisonY
I think I was supposed to start with Gilead before I read Home, but nonetheless I think Home stood up well enough to be read independently.

Home is an abjectly sad tale of the return home of the black sheep of the family after 20 years. His elderly father's health his failing, and his youngest sister is reluctantly back living at home after her own life has fallen apart. At heart he is a kind man desperate to find some goodness in his own soul, yet despite the love of his sister and devotion of his father he cannot break the pattern of his own self-destruction and self-narrative that he is someone unworthy of love.

Robinson for sure gets under the hood of the sorrow and complexity of the family's emotions, but I did find Home a very bleak read. The entirety of the book is made up of the family's struggle with Jack and his struggles with himself, with little movement of plot or place to break a little sunshine through the clouds, and whilst the writing was first class it was a depressing place to hang out in.

3 stars - well conceived yet suffocating.
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LibraryThing member ElizaJane
How to start a review on this book? There is very little plot. Jack, black-sheep of the Reverend Boughton's family, returns home after a twenty year absence. At home is his younger sister, who has fallen upon hard times and his dying father, the Reverend. The book revolves around the characters and how they interact.

The Reverend Boughton desperately wants to know the condition of Jack's soul before he dies. Jack is unable to give him this solace though he tries. Jack has sinned deeply during his twenty year absence and yet there are glimpses into a good person, which the reader of Gilead will already know. So here is a man both sinner and worker of grace. Yet, unable to tell his father his secrets.

The theme of parental disappointment in their own adult child is also strong and I was particularly hit with this quotation from the book. I think this is a feeling that many parents of grown children who have strayed from the path will resonate with.

"Kinder to him! I thanked God for him every day of his life, no matter how much grief, how much sorrow -- and at the end of it all there is only more grief, more sorrow, and his life will go on that way, no help for it now You see something beautiful in a child, and you almost live for it, you feel as though you would die for it, but it isn't yours to keep or to protect. And if the child becomes a man who has n o respect for himself, it's just destroyed till you can hardly remember what it was ... It's like watching a child die in your arms." [pg. 294]

This book is a companion piece to Robinson's Pulitzer Prize winning Gilead. Those who have read Gilead will recognise that this family appeared in that book. This book is entirely set in 1961 and Reverend Ames and his family play a small part in this tale. Those who enjoyed Gilead will most certainly enjoy Home.

To me, Home, is the better of the two. The depth of characterization is tremendous and the essence of life and death hangs in the air throughout the book. There is a lot of dialogue in this story and less theological dissertations than Gilead, which I must admit my mind wandered through somewhat. Though there is a heavy Christian theme of redemption and grace. I did find the ending rather anti-climatic though as both Gilead and Home present a secret that Jack is keeping and the secret is revealed at the end of both books so once one book has been read the secret seems pointless as a plot point in the other.

Though Home is independent of Gilead and publishers are promoting that they can be read as stand-alones. I think there is a knowledge of Jack, an insider's viewpoint, that strengthens his character in Home which readers who have not previously read Gilead will not recognize. Therefore, I recommend the books being read in the order they were published. If characterization is more compelling to your reading than a fast moving plot you will enjoy Home very much, as will anyone who has read and enjoyed Gilead.
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LibraryThing member StephenBarkley
Home moves slow.

In this sequel to Robinson's Pulitzer prize winning novel Gilead, Home takes us back to Gilead, Iowa. The plot moves as slowly as the small town it's set in. Glory Boughton returns to Gilead to care for her father. Shortly thereafter, her brother Jack (the troublemaker) arrives. Throw in a few meetings with the Rev. John Ames, and that's the entire plot.

Normally, this would be a criticism. Fortunately, Home is not normal! What makes this book special is the way Robinson writes about the relationships between two siblings, their father, and an aging (softening?) preacher. I've never understood characters the way I understand Glory and Jack. It makes me want to reread Gilead, now that I know them so well.

Since Home is written from the perspective of Glory (while Gilead was written as the memoir of the Rev. John Ames), there is not as much religious reflection to ponder. That said, Robinson's understanding and exploration of the relationships between very different people leave the reader much to chew on.

Home is a fitting sequel to Gilead, and a fine novel in its own right. Yes Home moves slow—the perfect speed for this story.
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LibraryThing member otterley
Another extraordinary and beautiful book. I found it less unbearably affecting than Gilead, perhaps because death - while a presence throughout - is not so immanent as it appears in the former book and the tone feels more diffuse and less intense. To find books that deal so openly, precisely and wisely with religion, spirituality and the deepest realities of human nature is rare and wonderful.… (more)
LibraryThing member jwhenderson
Marilynne Robinson's latest novel, Home, is in part a variation on the theme of the prodigal son. However in this case, the father, Reverend Robert Boughton, does not role out the red carpet. Just as she did in her first novel, Housekeeping, Marilynne Robinson evokes themes from the Bible to provide thematic foundation for her narrative. As this story proceeds we begin to get a picture of a man deeply disappointed in his son and who seemingly, in spite of some words that suggest otherwise, would have preferred that his son not return after an absence of twenty years. While his daughter Glory, who is living at home caring for him, is willing to attempt to reconnect with her brother Jack as she deals with her own personal regrets, Reverend Boughton is gradually portrayed as a vain bitter old man, shorn of the more loving aspects of the Christian belief system. Doubt and distrust of his son, not altogether unwarranted, but certainly unexpected from a man of the cloth, consume the Reverend whose blood ties with this broken son do not help him overcome his antipathy for flaws that do not seem to be beyond forgiveness. Others have shown some trust in Jack, but all seem to harbor doubts in this beautifully-written novel that shares its local and some characters with Robinson's Pulitzer Prize winning Gilead. In Gilead father and daughter remain as the rest of the family gathers to see their father through his last days, but the prodigal . . . well, read the book and find out.… (more)
LibraryThing member mirrani
I haven't read Gilead, so I can't compare this book to its companion, but I can say that it will start out slower than readers will probably expect. This is a story about family, relationship, and the curiosities that come with growing distant. It is not action packed, there is no serious drama that will keep you biting your nails, no moments where you will grab a box of tissues. You as a reader will simply be taken into the family as a sort of hovering member, experiencing the things going on within the house as if you were a part of the furniture or a fly on the wall. The slight mystery of who people were and who they have become unfolds slowly before you up to the end.

It is a truth about families that children have their own memories of a life at home, different to what their parents knew of the same time. They grow up, siblings become somewhat distant from each other as they move on in their lives, parents reach out how they can within the reality of their child's new freedom. Coming home isn't only about returning to those memories, it is also about changing our views of them, understanding them from a different point of view, now that we are older and the world has changed. Relationships grow because we grow, they are changed because we change. That is the memory I come away with after reading this book, mixed in with my own memories of visiting homes from my childhood, of spending time with my family around the dinner table. If the every day life of day to day experiences don't impress you when you are reading, you'll want to look elsewhere for something to catch your attention, but if you can enjoy a story that focuses on the discovery of a character's past and the deepening of relationships around said character, this book is for you. It is beautifully written and, in my opinion, is worth the visit into the mundane world of one family's home.
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LibraryThing member mel927
I finished the book yesterday and I'm still not sure how I feel about it. Robinson's writing is exquisite. There are sentences that make you stop and gasp for the beauty of it. Her characterizations are masterful.

All in all, it is a beautiful book. The angst of the father in dealing with the prodigal son. The sister, Glory, dealing with her own disappoinments and the joy she felt in having her brother home. Even Jacks own feelings of trying to please his father. My disappoinment came in never truly understanding why Jack felt the way he did. Did I miss something?… (more)
LibraryThing member lkernagh
Having loved [Gilead] when I read it back in 2011, it will probably come as no surprise to Marilynne Robinson fans out there that Home was a perfect read for me, although you might be wondering why the heck it took me so long to get around to reading Robinson’s second book in her the loosely connected Gilead series – if it can be called a series, that is, given that the common thread is the setting (Gilead). Trust me, I am wondering the same thing! Like Gilead, Home is a rather sedate/reflective piece of work, written in a calming, contemplative tone, that seems perfectly fitting for the time period . The themes of judgement, salvation, redemption, grace as well as whether or not people can change, ripple through the pages. What I find fascinating is that both books – Gilead and Home – are set in the same place and time: small town Gilead, Iowa, in 1956, and yet I seem to recall a very different vibe/perspective when I read Gilead. I found Home to be a better read, for a number of reasons: the overall flow of the story, the omniscient narration, the strong sense of family and the evocative presentation of small town life so remotely removed (both mentally and figuratively) from big events like the civil rights movement. Having personally experienced the return of a wayward family member - wayward in the sense of distancing themselves from the family for a number of years - I found the conversations between Jack and Glory, and Jack and his father, was a poignantly moving experience for me. While there is a lot of sadness in Home, a lot of kindness and gentleness also shines through.

On the whole, I found Home to be an emotionally demanding and deeply satisfying read. Definitely one I know I will re-read at some point in the future.
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LibraryThing member LukeS
In this companion-piece to "Gilead," Ms. Robinson brings us the brief, guilt-ridden return home of Jack Boughton. Jack is the black sheep of the family, son of Reverend Boughton, and brother to Glory, who has returned home as well. Home is the small-town Iowa of "Gilead," in 1954. Jack understands he is the black sheep; it is a role he accepts, although not all his motivations are nefarious, or even underhanded. He makes somewhat of an effort to get along with authority in this episode of his life, mainly because he doesn't have a choice. He blasphemes in horror as he and his father witness the racial violence in Little Rock; he is more appalled than anyone, although his father doesn't care for the way he expresses it.

Once again Ms. Robinson uses water as a significant symbol. In "Housekeeping," one of the best novels I have ever read, water is a great leveler, a deadly weight pulling those who cannot escape Lake Fingerbone to the ultimate conformity that is death. It is something to be risen over. In "Gilead," water baptizes, which, oddly, is an introduction to death. Here, Jack keeps a picture of a river, which represents to him a passage, something that will transport him past the shore of perdition. For Glory, this is an affirming story; the water she sheds in her tears - is there anyting there for Jack?

"Home" matches "Gilead" in terms of deeply-felt and lasting family issues, if not its creative and dramatic structure. I do value this piece on its own, even though it works well as a companion -piece. This marvellous author takes you along expertly, showing you the full range of human emotion and aspiration. Her touch with her fallen characters is flawless.

Now I itch to get to Ms. Robinson's non-fiction. I'll be reading "The Death of Adam" soon.
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