Home by Marilynne Robinson
Anyone who has read "Gilead" will know the characters of this book. Gilead told the story of that time from one man's point of view; "Home" tells it from another. If you think that sounds dull, think again. I was quite hesitant to read this because Gilead was so incredibly beautiful that I was sure nothing could measure up. I don't know what I was thinking. It's a different book with it's own beauty and the two shouldn't even be compared. It's like asking which is more perfect, this perfect thing or that perfect thing.
They are different character's stories set at the same time in the same place. It was curious, and intriguing, to read about something happening that I'd read before from a different perspective. Each book stands on it's own, but reading Gilead first took this story to another level, giving me a broader understanding of every character's actions and motivations.
In "Gilead" retired Rev. John Ames tells of his growing up years, the loss of his first wife and child and how, in his later life, he came to be married to a younger woman and having a child with her. His neighbour and best friend of many years, Robert Boughton, also a retired Reverend, is a major part of his life. In "Home", the Boughton family's story is told. Rev. Boughton is a widower with several grown children, one of whom - his daughter,Glory - has returned to Gilead to care for him as his health declines. The major story line is the return of his son, Jack, who hasn't made an appearance in 20 years. Jack had been the misfit, the one who always did or said the wrong thing, who found trouble wherever he went. He tells Glory that when he was a child, he had watched the rest of them and wished he could live in that house the way they did, could come and go like he belonged there. He did belong there, but he never felt it.
I don't think I can adequately express how I feel about these books. Actually, it's not so much how I feel about them as it is how they made me feel. I fell into them and did not want to come out. The writing is hauntingly beautiful. The author's insight and honesty about what it is to be human make this one of the most gently realistic stories I've ever read. I think anyone who reads it is going to find something of themselves in here. There's a ring of truth about these books that is sweet relief in a society numbed by the phoniness of Kardashians and other false realities.
As corny as it sounds, reading "Home" felt like going home, both because the place and characters were familiar and because the writing is so comfortable. It just feels right, like it fits. I love these books and can't recommend them highly enough.