Marilynne Robinson has a devoted following, but I’ve avoided reading her books because of her devoted following. I love connecting with other booklovers (in real life and online), and there are a few books that are on the top of a lot of lists: Peace Like a River (check out the link for a bargain if you’ve been wanting to buy it!) by Leif Enger and Gilead by Marliynne Robinson.
I read Peace a long time ago at the urgent recommendation of a friend. I didn’t like it. I found it slow, and didn’t get all the rich meaning and emotion that others’ ascribed to it. So, when I see that book mentioned I feel left out of a club. Often Gilead is right there on those same lists, which has always linked them in my mind, and caused me to assume that if I didn’t like Peace Like a River, then I wouldn’t like anything by Marilynne Robinson either.
But then MacMillan Audio offered to send me the audiobook version of Home: A Novel, since I’ve enjoyed other books narrated by Maggi-Meg Reed. I started listening to the 10 disc audiobook, and it didn’t take me long to be sucked right into the story of an Glory Boughton, an adult woman returning home to her small-town home to care for her aging father. Things get complicated when her estranged brother Jack shows up as well, after a twenty-year absence.
This is a love story — a love story between a woman scorned and her hometown, a love story between a woman and her brother who she never really knew (and no, not THAT kind of love story) — wrapped up in a cozy blanket that is the sweet, comfortable yet oftentimes unwelcome lure of Home.
I loved the character-driven dramatic tension created as Glory and Jack learn to deal with each other and gradually share their secrets with one another. As the reader (and Glory) get to know Jack better, we find ourselves questioning his motives and his loyalty, which makes for a wonderful bit of page turning (or in my case, disc flipping) suspense.
If you are “one of those” Gilead-lovers, you’ll be glad to know that the novel is set in Gilead, and John Ames appears as a minor character as well. After getting to know him a bit, I’m not sure that I want to revisit his story in more depth. I did not find him likable at all, although I did like his wife. This is not a sequel at all. It’s a parallel story, set at the same time (1956), telling a different story about different characters (who may or may not appear in Gilead briefly — I don’t know since I haven’t read it, but I would assume that the elderly Robert Boughton does appear in the other work as well.
Audiobook review: I love the deep, calm, not overly-expressive voice of Maggi-Meg Reed. She did a wonderful job narrating this book, giving the voices of Jack, the Reverend, and Glory slightly different inflections. Some of the reviews of the book say that it’s overly long and drawn-out, but I enjoyed each of the 12 hours that I listened to the book. In fact, when I’m purchasing audiobooks, I actually prefer to buy longer ones to get more bang for my buck, since the cost is almost always the same, regardless of length. This is the same way I purchased books when I was a child.