Summary and book reviews of Home by Marilynne Robinson

Home

A Novel

By Marilynne Robinson

Home
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  • Hardcover: Sep 2008,
    336 pages.
    Paperback: Sep 2009,
    336 pages.

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Book Summary

Hundreds of thousands were enthralled by the luminous voice of John Ames in Gilead Marilynne Robinson’s Pulitzer Prize–winning novel. Home is an entirely independent, deeply affecting novel that takes place concurrently in the same locale, this time in the household of Reverend Robert Boughton, Ames’s closest friend.

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.

Jack is one of the great characters in recent literature. A bad boy from childhood, an alcoholic who cannot hold a job, he is perpetually at odds with his surroundings and with his traditionalist father, though he remains Boughton’s most beloved child. Brilliant, lovable, and wayward, Jack forges an intense bond with Glory and engages painfully with Ames, his godfather and namesake.

Home is a moving and healing book about families, family secrets, and the passing of the generations, about love and death and faith. It is Robinson’s greatest work, an unforgettable embodiment of the deepest and most universal emotions.

Excerpt
Home

"Home to stay, Glory! Yes!" her father said, and her heart sank. He attempted a twinkle of joy at this thought, but his eyes were damp with commiseration. "To stay for a while this time!" he amended, and took her bag from her, first shifting his cane to his weaker hand. Dear God, she thought, dear God in heaven. So began and ended all her prayers these days, which were really cries of amazement. How could her father be so frail? And how could he be so recklessly intent on satisfying his notions of gentlemanliness, hanging his cane on the railing of the stairs so he could, dear God, carry her bag up to her room? But he did it, and then he stood by the door, collecting himself.

"This is the nicest room. According to Mrs. Blank." He indicated the windows. "Cross ventilation. I don’t know. They all seem nice to me." He laughed. "Well, it’s a good house." The house embodied for him the general blessedness of his life, which was manifest, really indisputable. And...

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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 ...
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Reviews

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Even in disgrace, Jack projects an irresistible charm, and I couldn't help but bleed for him as he repeatedly attempts to make peace with his dying father only to enflame old wounds. But to focus on Jack's tortured soul, as so many reviewers have done, is to duplicate an injury that Robinson condemns within the novel—that of overlooking and taking for granted the state of Glory's soul. It is she who comes to know Jack better than anyone in the family, and it is her emotional wisdom that saves him day after day. Because Robinson narrates the action from within Glory's perspective, it is perhaps most accurate to say that Home is the story not of a prodigal son but of a sister's loving, faltering attempt to bring the prodigal son back into the family.   (Reviewed by Amy Reading).

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Media Reviews
Kirkus Reviews

Comes astonishingly close to matching its amazing predecessor in beauty and power.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Robinson's beautiful new nove...stakes a fierce claim to a divine recognition behind the rituals of home.

Library Journal

Fans of Gilead will be grateful for this expansion of the story - and for its closing hint of a possible return to the extended Ames/Boughton families, whose two small sons will carry their complicated heritage into the cultural revolutions of the 1960s.

New York Times - Michiko Kakutani

Instead of making all this feel inevitable, Ms. Robinson simply leaves the reader feeling that her characters are perversely choosing not to communicate, and as a result, her sad family drama feels less affecting than stage-managed, less tragic than unnecessary and contrived.

The Washington Post - Ron Charles

Even more than their stylistic beauty, what's miraculous about Gilead and Home is their explicit focus on spiritual affliction, discussed in the hard terms of Protestant theology.

Chicago Sun-Times - Mark Athitakis

If Home is a lesser novel than Gilead, it still calls up the surpassing gracefulness of Robinson's best writing, as well as its -- there's no better word -- spirit.

San Francisco Chronicle - Joan Frank

Home offers such intricate characterizations, so many passages of surpassing wisdom and beauty, one yearns to quote page after page. It rejoices in the humblest actions - giving a haircut, weeding, making meals, coffee - the holiness of the daily. As handily as it fits Frost's famous lines, Home also calls to mind those of the late, entirely unreligious E.B. White: "All that I ever hope to say, is that I love the world."

Reader Reviews
Marie from Maplewood

Most moving books I've read in years.
Both Home and her previous book were so memorable! To read the reactions of the characters from their perspectives to the same recounting of events in their lives was so skillfully accomplished! I became a witness to their lives. I need to know ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Predestination
One of the crucial scenes in Home, a scene so important that it repeats and vastly expands on a scene from Gilead, occurs when John Ames and his wife Lila visit the Boughtons for dinner, and Jack discomfits them all by pressing Reverend Ames for his views on the doctrine of predestination. "Do you think some people are intentionally and irretrievably consigned to perdition?" he asks. He continues, "I've wondered from time to time if I might not be an instance of predestination. A sort of proof. If I may not experience predestination in my own person. That would be interesting, if the consequences ...

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