Home: A Novel
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Amazon Best of the Month, September 2008: "What does it mean to come home?" In one way or another, every character in Home is searching for that answer. Glory Boughton, now 38 and lovelorn, has returned to Gilead to care for her dying father. Her wayward brother Jack also finds his way back, though his is an uneasy homecoming, reverberating with the scandal that drove him away twenty years earlier. Glory and Jack unravel their stories slowly, speaking to each other more in movements than in words--a careful glance here, a chair pulled out from the table there--against a domestic backdrop so richly imagined you may be fooled into believing their house is your own. Meanwhile, their father, whose ebullient love for his children is a welcome counterpoint to Glory and Jack's conflicted emotions, experiences his own kind of reckoning as he yearns to understand his troubled son. There is a simplicity to this story that belies the complexity of its characters--they are bound together by a profound capacity for love and by an equally powerful sense of private conviction that tries the ties that bind, but never breaks them. It's a delicate sort of tension that you think would resist exposition--and in fact these characters seem to want nothing more than, as Glory says, to treat "one another's deceptions like truth"--but Marilynne Robinson's fine, tender prose imbues this family's secrets with an overwhelming grace. --Anne Bartholomew

Customer Reviews:

  • Going home - CD Audiobook review
    I spent many years out to sea. Every time I went home the only thing that had changed was me. The people in my family, my friends all seemed to be stuck in the rut that they were when I left.

    Home, the novel, is a great look into a family and all of the baggage and issues along with it. It at times is a happy book, but more often than not it touches at your heart and doesn't let go. It at times is about redemption and healing. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this book on the road as I was traveling. Very recommended!...more info
  • Home, by Marilynne Robinson
    This is a beautifully written book. Although it is not a sequel to Giliead I think that reading it after Gilead makes it even more meaningful....more info
  • One of the most tedious books I've read in a long time...
    I am, in general, a fan of Marilynne Robinson's fiction. I LOVED "Housekeeping", and I really enjoyed the slowly unfolding, engrossing "Gilead". But "Home" is, in my opinion, a major failure.

    This novel rehashes one of the central conflicts of "Gilead" - the unforgivable sinning of Jack Boughton - from the point of view of his father and his sister, Glory. For 325 pages, Glory and Reverand Boughton worry about Jack, and Jack ruefully smiles and admits that he's tired of himself. Then, Glory makes coffee. There is more coffee made in this novel than in any book I have ever read.

    I am a person who loves literary fiction, especially character-driven novels. I am not a reader who demands page turning action. But this book is so repetitive, and the conflict so slight, that it took all of my will power to finish reading it. Maybe I'm just too 21st century - I don't see why Jack is supposed to be so awful. Yes, he drinks; yes, he fathered a child out of wedlock. I know this novel is set in a place and time where these transgressions were more serious than they are today, but I got really tired of everyone acting like Jack had murdered people.

    I give this book two stars because Robinson does have a way with description and with creating a sense of place. I did have sympathy for Glory, but really, it wasn't enough to salvage this boring book for me. I would recommend it as a sedative if you have trouble sleeping. ...more info
  • Robinson Has Done It Again
    Robinson is clearly one of the most gifted writers of our time. Her style is unique. Her character development is amazing. I feel like her characters are my best friends. I really care about them. The insights of the characters through Robinson are often profound, always interesting. The only criticism I can come up with is that the book, like her other fiction, starts slowly. It took me a while to "get into" the characters and the plot, but after 50 pages or so, I was hooked. It takes a little patience. A wonderful novel. Thank you Ms. Robinson for sharing with us....more info
  • Is Where The Heart Is

    All of us at some point find a book that we find so eloquently written that we wish it would not end. 'Home' is that book for me. The characters are so rich and full and so like people I know.

    The Prodigal Son, Jack, returns home. He left Gilead 20 some odd years ago after a life full of ne'er do well tricks and thievery. This time he had impregnated a young farm girl and left her to fend for herself. His sister Glory, is 38 and returns home to care for her Papa, Rev Broughton. She and Jack are two of the eight children in the family. Glory returns after a dalliance with a man whom she found to be married and who borrowed much of her savings. She returns home because of duty and love but she does not return home willingly. She is the only child it seems who can care for Papa. He has had a stroke and needs his family. His wife had died years ago.

    Glory and her father fared well, a daily life of chores and caring, boring really. Into this life comes Jack, looking or running from what we are not sure. This is a family who keeps things to themselves. Papa is a man of great moral value, a retired Presbyterian minister. His closest friend is Rev Ames the Congregational minister. Both are in their 70's now. Jack and Glory slowly start to talk, neither divulges much at first. Glory had always loved Jack, but as the youngest she felt she did count for much. Jack came home disheveled and drunk. The last 20 years have been filled with pain, love and dysfunction. He came home wondering if he could turn his life around. His question to both Rev Ames and Rev Broughton centered on whether he was predestined to go to hell. It is only Lila, Rev Ames wife who finally tells him, that yes, people can change. Jack's life is filled with disappointment, he loves a woman named Della, but his letters to St Louis are returned to sender without being opened. His life seems aimless, no job, no future, drowning his sorrows in alcohol. Glory shows him love, respect and caring. But to Jack that is not enough. He comes home to help care for his father, but he has always felt estranged from his family, never a part of it. He always came in the back door not the front. He tries desperately to become one of the family,and he is welcomed by his sister, father and his brother, Teddy, who stops in for a visit. But, to Jack, it is never enough.

    Religion plays a large part in this book. There is kindness and generosity in the town and family. Forgiveness from Rev Broughton, who has always felt that he failed his son. And, Jack feels he has failed everyone. Certainly, alcohol has played its part but that is not all of it. We try to piece everything together. The novel is one of friendship, family and aging. And, at the heart of it all is love. 'Home is where the heart is'.

    Highly, Highly Recommended. prisrob 04-25-09

    Housekeeping: A Novel

    Gilead: A Novel

    ...more info
  • Can You Go Home Again?
    When Glory Boughton returns home to Gilead to care for her ailing father, she carries with her the regrets and fantasies of a life of her own - now abandoned. But soon after her return to the old homestead, her prodigal brother Jack writes a letter, announcing that he, too, is on his way home.

    After more than twenty years gone, she barely recognizes him - and a part of her resents his return, coming as it does at a time when the old man needs this connection so badly. But as time passes, she and Jack come to a deeper understanding of each other, revealing some of their own secrets that neither is eager to share with anyone.

    Caring for their father together, fixing up the old homestead, which has become quite neglected in the past few years, they seemingly form a team...Protecting each other against the harshness of the life here, which remains the same, with the Reverend Ames sitting in judgment and the town folk glancing sidelong at Jack as if they half-expect him to steal from them...This is the reputation Jack once held, and his twenty-year abandonment of the family and any ties to this community, somehow reinforces this view. And Jack, self-deprecatory and doing nothing to eradicate the image the townspeople hold of him, continues in his quiet way to try to make some kind of amends - on the home front and with the minister. Their father, too, a former minister, holds many beliefs that cast someone like Jack in a "sinner" role.

    Slowly, the author peels away the layers that conceal the sadness and loss carried by these two, as they walk along the old familiar paths in the town and as they fall into the humble patterns of their youth in this home that is filled with memories of a time long ago...

    Dreams and loves and fantasies have been cast aside. In many ways, it seems as if these two people are sacrificing some other life to be here, caring for the old man, who barely recognizes them at times. And as the days and weeks pass, it becomes clear that, despite the moments of reconnection, time has not healed all the old wounds and the future is not what they expected...

    From the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Gilead: A Novel comes Home: A Novel, Ms. Robinson's latest triumphant chronicle of the homey things that conjure up memories of long-ago times.

    ...more info
  • Divinely Written
    John James is the narrator of GILEAD. He is the Congregationalist minister in Gilead, Iowa and we see him as serious, kind and wise. He seems almost perfect, but he has some imperfections he struggles with. The novel is actually a letter to his young son and we follow the dying man as he reflect on his life, philosophy, scripture and anything else that comes to mind and one of the things that comes to mind is the homecoming of his namesake -- John, called Jack, Boughton -- the son of his friend, Robert Boughton, who is the Presbyterian minister in Gilead.

    This is the same story retold, made more real, at least for me, because it's told in the third person point of view from the viewpoint of Robert Boughon's youngest daughter, Glory, who is also Jack's younger sister. Glory is an unmarried English teacher, who has come home to take care of her father, who is also old and ill. The ministers are close and so it's only fitting that these two books are as well. I love them both.

    John Ames Boughton, Jack, has returned after twenty years away. He'd been wicked and wild and Ames at times worries that Jack is paying two much attention to Lila, his young wife. But Jack isn't after Lila, he's got plenty on his mind to keep him occupied and if you've read Gilead before this, you'll know what, but it you haven't it won't be a shocker, because it's 2008, but either way you'll enjoy this book.

    I could just keep going, talking on and on about these two books, about how much I liked the writing, because it's just so divine. I must admit that I am wondering if Marilynn Robinson is planning a third novel about these events told from Jack's point of view. I know I'd be lining up to buy it....more info
  • a reader
    Although the book has much to recommend it, I didn't enjoy it. The only plot is human sadness.
    The writing is finely crafted and the book offers gentle insights into the human condition and into the bonds of family. The character of Robert Boughton is nicely developed. He is presented as a thoughtful, loving, generous, flawed, occasionally demanding, aging man. His daughter Glory has returned to care for him as he slips toward his death. Her character is full of patience and regret, and I found her less nuanced, less convincing than her father. She is overshadowed by her brother Jack, who can't seem to escape his fate as the troublesome, difficult, and despairing prodigal son. He has always been his father's greatest worry. He gets the lion's share of attention because he is difficult. Although the book is beautifully written, it is overly long, the pace is slow, and the effect is one of pervasive melancholy....more info
  • Touching, sad story of family and going home again
    Isn't it so often the case that the wildest child is often the favored child? Marilynne Robinson gives us a story of elderly parents, adult children as caretakers, life in a small, conservative town, and the challenges of atoning for the actions of our youth.

    Glory Boughton, in her 30s, unmarried and now unemployed, travels home to Gilead, Iowa, to take care of her aging father whose health is declining. She suffers her own losses silently and stoically as her father grieves for and yearns to see Jack, the wayward, difficult son who has disappeared from the family for years. When Jack shows up on the doorstep, these characters struggle with atonement, grief, depression, forgiveness, and self-hatred. Jack is the alcoholic who hasn't held one job for very long; Glory is the good daughter trying to keep peace in the family while nurturing Jack back to some semblance of emotional health.

    Jack moves in and begins to force the family's property and home back into something resembling what he remembers from happier times. He tries to make himself smaller and unnoticed, all the while struggling with his own demons and the compulsion to escape through drink. Glory, meanwhile, mourns the loss of what she once imagined to be a happier, married life with a family of her own. "What have I done with my life?" Glory asks. "It is as if I had a dream of adult life and woke up from it, still here in my parents' house." Anyone who has truly had to return "home" again can probably relate to this on some level.

    All the while these characters function within the values of 1950s small-town America (this almost seems like a different world now). They are, after all, the children of a prominent reverend, and their outward appearance and reputation in this small town takes precedence over their own needs to reach out for support and comfort. Jack and his father find that they are on opposite ends regarding politics and the heated racial relations affecting the country during that time, and Glory starts to put together small clues about Jack's life during the time he was away from the family.

    Although Glory is the third-person narrator of this story, this story is about Jack and his struggles with his father and with his own fatherhood. All of the characters are focused more on their internal struggles and emotions, and the reader spends this time caught up in the internalizations of these characters - it is at times almost like they do not actually interact with each other as much as they "imagine" how they interact with each other.

    Narrator Maggi-Meg Reed does a fine job overall, but her interpretation of some of the characters - especially Reverend Boughton - is somewhat off-putting, in my opinion. She makes this elderly man sound beyond elderly, bordering on ancient, and that voice was grating. Still, this is a worthy audiobook. I can't exactly say that I enjoyed it because this is a gut-wrenchingly emotional story, but Robinson's writing is superb, and it was so easy to fall into the narrative. This is a sad tale; Jack brings in some humor, but these characters have so many regrets, and that comes out time and again. I actually felt a bit drained by the end of this novel, but I recommend it to anyone who appreciates good narrative and solid story-telling....more info
  • Rings very true to life
    Everything in this novel rings true from the complex dynamic between a minister and his black sheep son right down to the last detail of life in a small town. I felt like I was there and knew this family. Certainly I have met such families for real in small town Iowa! Enjoyable read! ...more info
  • Return of the Prodigal
    It is 1957 and after being away two decades Jack Boughton comes home, showing up on the back porch, thin and wearing a brown suit, "tapping his hat against his pant leg as if he could not make up his mind whether to knock on the glass or turn the knob or simply to leave again." He doesn't leave.

    The prodigal's return is the major focal point of Marilynn Robinson's Masterpiece GILEAD, written twenty years after her first novel HOUSEKEEPING. Fortunately it's only been four years since GILEAD. Maybe she was able to shave sixteen years off this one, because it's a retelling of the last one, but from a different person's point of view.

    Still, the novel has to live by itself, in my opinion anyway, and in my opinion this one does. There's not a lot of action, in fact other than a ride in a car, there isn't any at all, but there is wonderful writing. In Gilead we saw the story from the Rev. John Ames point of view in the form of a letter he was writing to his young son Robby, to be read after his death. John doesn't view Jack's return or Jack himself in nearly the same light as his younger sister Glory. This novel is told in the third person and it's told from Glory's point of view.

    It goes without saying that people are going to compare the two books. Heck, how could you not? Do you need to read this if you've read Gilead? Well, if you liked Gilead you need to. This is a beautifully told story of the return of a prodigal son. There are problems and conflicts and unlike in a lot of stories, they don't all get resolved. That's all part of the beauty of this beautiful book....more info
  • Worth It.
    I could relate to a certain extent with the reviewers who found the book thin and boring. But in the context of which the story was written, 1950's midwest, I found the tone and substance of the story quite fitting. So while I struggled to stay engaged, I kept moving forward with the expectation that my efforts would pay off. And they did. The ending was perfect. I re-read it and reflected on it for some time. I was particularly moved by Glory's acceptance of her fate as "preserver" of the home. For the sake of her family, particularly her brother Jack, she was finally willing to sacrifice her own life for the preservation of the past and of the nostalgic constancy which bound and defined their family. Something not so valued today, but, perhaps, should be. Sad, bittersweet, but so moving. Just what I had hoped for. ...more info
  • He Lives Evil, Eh?
    This novel succeeds admirably at several levels. First, it explores at least one basic theological question. Also, it illustrates that such questions are sometimes answered more successfully by lay persons than by clergy.

    In addition, the novel portrays well the diminishing strength of an elderly parent and its differing effects on various members of the younger generation. And it provides fascinating insight into adult sibling relationships.

    And, not at all least for this reader, it provides some moving nostalgia for a hymn-singing childhood. It is beside the point that such recollections are quite likely distorted and optimized memories of what for the older generation was a more disturbing time. As a matter of fact, perhaps that is one of the points.

    The theological question which most intrigued this reader is finally put into words on page 225 of my edition: "Are there people who are simply born evil, live evil lives, and then go to hell?" As one might surmise upon seeing the question, the theories of John Calvin are treated occasionally in pursuing an elusive answer. To "live evil" would indeed provide an empirical and palindromic manifestation of Calvin's concept of man's total depravity.

    It is unfortunate that author Robinson's skill and professionalism were not approached by those of her editors and her publisher. Annoying erroneous spellings survived, including one of the name of Larry Doby, the athlete who in 1947 became the first black baseball player in the American League, second only to Jackie Robinson in all of major-league baseball.

    Also related to civil rights, one of the novel's undercurrent themes, is the attribution of Birmingham's infamous fire hoses to another Alabama city, Montgomery, which had managed to secure its own adverse reputation without resorting to those particular weapons. Birmingham's pleasure at not being remembered probably exceeds that of Larry "Dobie" for being remembered at all.

    But compulsive nit-picking aside, "Home" is an important and significant work, and may well bring another major prize for Robinson.

    ...more info
  • Home ,again with all the nuances the word implies
    As the oldest of 6 siblings there was are so many truths in this book I cannot begin to name them. I could at once identify with Jack and in the same moment with Glory.

    Kudos!...more info
  • Liked it, but Probably Should have Read GILEAD First
    Unlike many others I came to this book without reading GILEAD first and I came to it as an audiobook, so I couldn't speed read past passages that bothered me. Oftentimes, the ability to do that will make a so so book really work for me. That said, I thought this book was a bit preachy, at least the Rev. Boughten was, but I guess I should have expected that.

    What I didn't expect was how hard it was for the old man to connect with his son. Wow, forgiveness is hard for the religious. Actually, that's something I've observed in my life, those who call themselves Saved seem to have little use for those they call secular. Forgiveness doesn't seem to be a part of their vocabulary.

    Back to the book. I did like the story, even though the relationships seemed a bit to strained to be real. The characters were solid, though maybe a bit unbelievable for me (did people really act like these people do, back in 1957?). The prose, however, is written at a perfect pitch that painted these people's hopes, despairs, secrets and sorrows deep into my heart for a couple days.

    I loaded this book onto my iPod and took some very long walks while listening to it, spent a several long hours sitting on a bench and staring over the ocean as I listened to this story. The very fact that I kept at it, wanted to know how it came out and didn't skip ahead, is prove positive that this is a masterpiece of a story, even if it is a bit flawed, character wise. That's just my opinion, mind you and maybe if I'd read GILEAD first I'd think differently, because I see those who have do, So perhaps I'm being a bit unfair. Anyway, I do recommend this book....more info