Lila by Marilynne Robinson. Or saving an angry, bitter soul.

Fans of Marilynne Robinson’s gentle storytelling style know that Lila has hit the shelves.

Revisiting the setting and characters of Gilead and Home, Lila is an unabashed exploration of grace or the power of connection to save us.

Bitter, injured psyches are healed mainly by their connections to others but also by their connections to texts, memories, and the little glories of nature.

Little glories, big significance.

Like shimmering leaves, sweet elderberries, and a burning bush.

“She had never been at home in all the years of her life. She wouldn’t know how to begin. But the shade of the cottonwoods and the shimmer of their leaves and the trill of the cicadas were comfort for her. The pasture smell. Elderberries grew in the ditches by the road, and they picked them and ate them as they walked. Sometimes it was dark when they turned back toward Gilead. Once, he noticed a bush glimmering with fireflies. He stepped into the ditch and touched it, and fireflies rose out of it in a cloud of light.”

I have a love affair with fireflies and can’t resist them, in nature or in literary texts.

I’ve enthused about this delightful little insect before, here and here. And when I read this passage in Lila, I knew I’d share it with Somebody.

Which is after all the first step in connecting with others.

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6 Responses to Lila by Marilynne Robinson. Or saving an angry, bitter soul.

  1. Richard says:

    Glad to see you back at it again, Kevin, and thanks for sharing that sweet little snippet about fireflies above. Good stuff!

  2. Dwight says:

    Thanks for posting on it. Looking forward to hearing about your minor dissatisfaction…I had the same response to “Home” despite really liking it. I’ll need to revisit it and “Gilead” and it again before tackling this.

  3. @Richard, thank you.

    @Dwight, my dissatisfaction is truly minor. I don’t see how Reverend Ames can have any romantic interest in Lila, whatsoever. Too much separates them–experience, learning, outlook, status, etc. But this happens all the time, doesn’t it. Pairings that make no sense. The “problem” lies mostly with me, I suppose. I don’t share M. Robinson’s optimism that seemingly random happenings are mysterious gifts from God, inscrutably yet beneficently bestowed. Lastly, I wouldn’t hold off on reading Lila. Its setting is chronologically prior to Gilead, which I’ll to begin re-reading tonight, fortunate for me!

  4. Dwight says:

    Thanks for the clarification. And the push not to delay!

  5. Kat says:

    Kevin, I loved Gilead, and we went to hear Marilynne Robinson read from Lila in October, and it was truly a stunning literary event. I’m in the middle of Home and not liking it as much as Gilead, but will get to Lila eventually. Three novels after all that silence. Perhaps she’s catching up.

    • Hi Kathy, Gilead is marvelous. I read it again after finishing Lila, which is good but nowhere near Gilead or even Home, for that matter. When you read Lila, let me know. I’ll be curious to see if you like. I’m almost embarrassed to tell you what I’m reading right now. Almost but not quite: Lonesome Dove. I’m thoroughly enjoying it! McMurtry has a real gift for character development. Have a great December. Best to you.

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