Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
About this Guide
The following author biography and list of questions about Home are
intended as resources to aid individual readers and book groups who would like
to learn more about the author and this book. We hope that this guide will
provide you a starting place for discussion, and suggest a variety of
perspectives from which you might approach Home.
About the Book
A novel that enthralled America and garnered the Pulitzer Prize, Gilead
transported readers to a small Iowa town at the cultural crossroads of the
1950s. Returning once again to that singular time and place, Marilynne Robinson
has crafted a wholly independent, deeply affecting novel taking place in the
householdof the Reverend Robert Boughton, whose closest friend John Ames
narrated Gilead in a voice at once tender and luminous.
Home begins as Glory Boughton returns to Gilead at the age of
thirty-eight to care for her dying father. Soon her brother, Jack, the family's
prodigal son, joins her after twenty years away. Named for John Ames, his
godfather, Jack struggles to make peace with his past, marked by alcoholism and
failed attempts at conventional living. Yet he is his father's most beloved
child. In what may be their final reunion, Jack and Robert struggle to
understand their difficult relationship, while Glory attempts to come to terms
with the lost promises of her youth.
What does "home" mean to Robert Boughton and his children? What does the
Boughton house signify to his family? With whom do they feel most at home?
How does Glory's opinion of Jack change throughout the novel? What
enables them to trust each other? In what ways is that trust strained? How
does their relationship compare to yours with your siblings?
How is the Boughton household affected by the presence of a television
set? How does this reflect a shift that took place in many households
throughout America in the 1950s? Were you surprised by Robert Boughton's
comments about African Americans, and by his reaction to the televised race
Why do you think Robert loves Jack best, despite Jack's shortcomings?
What is your understanding of Jack's wayward behavior? How would you have
responded to his theological questions regarding redemption?
Discuss the friendship between John Ames and Robert Boughton. What has
sustained it for so many years? How did they nurture each other's
intellectual lives, approaching life from Congregationalist and Presbyterian
What did Glory's mother teach her about the role of women? How was the
Boughton family affected by the death of its matriarch?
How do the Boughtons view prosperity and charity? What is reflected in
the way Glory handles the household finances, with leftover money stored in
the piano bench? What is the nature of Jack's interest in Marxism? What is
demonstrated in the incident of the book on England's working classes (the
stolen library volume that Robert Boughton considered dull)?
How do the themes of deception and integrity play out in the novel? Are
all of the characters honest with themselves? Which secrets, in the novel
and in life, are justified?
What does Jack do with the memory of his out-of-wedlock daughter? Does
his father have an accurate understanding of that chapter in Jack's life?
How are Glory, Jack, and Robert affected by Teddy's visit? What accounts
for the "anxiety, and relief, and resentment" Glory feels regarding Teddy's
arrival (p. 253)?
Discuss Ames's provocative sermon, which Jack paraphrases as a
discussion of "the disgraceful abandonment of children by their fathers" (p.
206) based on the narrative of Hagar and Ishmael. To what degree are parents
responsible for the actions of their children, and vice versa?
What aspects of romantic love are reflected in Home? How does Glory cope
with her ill-fated engagement? Is Jack very different from Glory's fiancé?
What do the Boughtons think of John Ames's marriage to Lila?
How did you react to Della's arrival? What legacy and memories will
define her son? What common ground did Jack and Della share, fostering love?
Hymns provide a meaningful background throughout the novel. What do
their words and melodies convey?
In terms of religion, what beliefs do Glory, Jack and Robert agree upon?
What do they seek to know about God and the nature of humanity? What answers
do they find?
What distinctions did you detect between the way John Ames described
Jack in Gilead and the portrayal of Jack in Home? What are the
similarities and differences between the Ames and Boughton households? What
accounts for the fact that families can inhabit nearly identical milieux but
experience life in profoundly different ways?
Do towns like Gilead still exist? Are pastors like Ames and Boughton
common in contemporary America?
Discuss the homecomings that have made a significant impact on your
life. How much forgiveness has been necessary across the generations in your
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