Sunday, December 14, 2008
Best-Loved Books of 2008, #14: Favorite novel of family, race, and religion
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Home by Marilynne Robinson (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
(Bonus: favorite serious reading)
This novel is big like an empty church, and intimate like the moment you and your sibling look at each other behind your parent's back. It tells the other side of the story of Robinson's luminous novel Gilead, and lays bare the limitations of good-hearted religious men and the inarguable illogic of despair, through a pair of oddball siblings trying so hard to be kind to each other that they break their own hearts. It's also about racism and alcoholism and America, from way inside. Robinson has a deep, compassionate understanding of those who will never be normal, and her beautiful, sad book is also infused with a kind of hope.
I loved Gilead fervently, and found Home a much sadder take on Robinson's themes -- redemption seems like more of a longshot here, when perceived from the perspective of the lonely, odd, and badly behaved, rather than the earnest but conflicted faithful. But it's another illuminating angle on the problems of humanity and faith, and well worth reading -- as I wrote about Robinson's first novel Housekeeping, the rightness of the words makes the tragedy bearable.