Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Home by Marilynne Robinson

I don't think it has ever, in my life, taken me so long to read a book (that I have finished, technically I am still reading The Famished Road by Ben Okri, which I started in about 1992.) I have been reading Home for six months, I started in January while camping in Tasmania. I had to keep putting it down to read other things, books for the uni subject I was teaching, books for work. Before kids, I always used to wolf books down in a sitting, or at least over the course of a few days, and it is rare that I capture the time to do that these days. And anyway, I am really really glad that I lived with Home for so long, dipping in and out of its meditative spaces.

Home is a follow up to Gilead which I read a couple of years ago, and also took some time over according to my blog. Home deals with the same characters (from a differing point of view, somewhere between the character of Glory and omniscient), in the same period of time, and even touches on the same thematic material and yet it is its own entity. It is not entirely an experience of narrative which is not to say it's not immersed in story. But the tension doesn't essentially come from character or plot, but from somewhere else, from the confluence of ideas, from the meeting of opposites, from questions of grace and family and love.

When I finished reading it, I sat reclining on the couch with it resting on my chest for a while, looking out the window, not ready to put it down. It was almost as if I wanted my chest to open up and swallow the book, and use it in place of my heart. I was grieving it - six months is a long time to live with anything, and these characters and their cares had entered my self and my consciousness. As I sat with the last notes of the book still ringing in my head, I heard Martin and the kids come back from a walk and thought 'they are my people who belong to me' with renewed astonishment and took deep pleasure in the sounds of them, out of my line of sight, on the other side of the gate.

If you have read Gilead you must read Home. If you have read neither you must read both, in whichever order you choose. I am not a book reviewer and it is in loving a book as passionately as I do Home that I realise why - true love renders this reader inarticulate, except to say, 'take this book and love it like I do.'


  1. I adored this book. After finishing, I thought it impossible that I would ever find another book whose characters felt as much a part of my own soul. Marilynne Robinson is incredible. Also, I had to read The Famished Road for my 20th Century Brit. Lit. class this past semester, and it was a rough one. I felt like I was reading the same five pages on a continuous loop for the duration of the novel. Not quite the most pleasant of experiences, especially when those five pages made me nauseous.

  2. I loved Gilead too. Can't wait to get a copy of Home. Thanks for the tip. But I also loved 'The Famished Road' and remember feeling as though I could see it and smell it and breathe Africa through it even though I read it in a Welsh cottage in 1993 while my kids rampaged around me (I couldn't put it down). I can still see Azaro in the marketplace and the bar, see his mother, see the spirits that surrounded them.

  3. Strangely enough I actually adored The Famished Road, I reveled in every moment of reading it (though I was only 18). But I just lost energy for it about two-thirds of the way through, probably mkid exams and the other things that happen to one in year 12, then I reached that stage where I had forgotten too much to take up where I'd left off, but didn't have the heart to start again. (It is very long.)

    Okri's short story 'When the Lights Return' made me want to be a writer and make people feel as bewildered, ecstatic, confused, sad and exhilarated as he made me feel.