By Marilynne Robinson
Completed October 11, 2009
Home, the 2009 Orange Prize Winner by Marilynne Robinson, was an alternate story to Gilead. While Gilead was a love letter from Reverend John Ames to his son, Robby, Home was the story about Ames’ best friend, Robert Boughton, and his family. It was a clever look at both families, and the peak at small-town life reminded me a bit of Winesburg, Ohio. While I thought Gilead was an okay read, I enjoyed Home much more.
Told from the perspective of Glory Boughton, this book explored the sometimes-complicated relationships between fathers and sons. Reverend Robert Boughton was aging, taken care of by his daughter, Glory, and was getting the surprise of his lifetime – the return of his long-lost son, Jack. Jack was always the wayward son – a thief, drunkard and reckless man. Despite Jack’s flaws, his father always considered him his favorite. Jack had not seen his father in 20 years, and his return home overjoyed his ailing father.
But soon enough, and despite Jack’s best efforts, his return conjured up too many bad memories, and the missteps from Jack’s past continued to haunt him at home. His relationship with his father never took off, and his efforts to make Reverend Ames proud of him fell short.
The theme of returning home was prevalent throughout this story. Jack and Glory had returned home, and “home” brought different emotions for both siblings. For Jack, it was a reminder of his mistakes in a town that always cast suspicion on him. For Glory, it was a reminder of her failure to marry and have children, and reaffirmed her responsibility to keep up the Boughton home for her siblings once their father died – so they too could have a sense of home whenever they wanted.
Home was an intensely emotional book – often complicated to read because of the theological conversations – but one I wish I could have read in college, with the benefit of a professor to guide me through. Home may be where the heart is, but for many, it’s just a memory that’s best left in the past. Read Home is you want to take a painful journey of returning home and reconnecting with family – for better or worst.
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