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

November 23, 2014

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.


Home

March 28, 2010

By Pulitzer Prize-winning author Marilynne Robinson, Home is a story about Jack Boughton’s return to Gilead, Iowa after a 20-year absence. His father Robert Boughton is a dying widower who is cared for by Jack’s 38-year old sister Glory Boughton. Through her eyes, through her hopes, sorrows, and disappointments, the story of Jack’s homecoming is told. A lost and scoundrel soul, Jack returns to Gilead with a carefully guarded plan to set his life aright. His stay is fraught with anxiety and tenderness, vulnerability and hope always hope, especially by those who love him most and can be profoundly hurt by him. Countless scenes are so deeply moving that one stops in sheer amazement, as when Robert Boughton, eager to spend time with Glory, falls asleep at the table with his fork in hand, or when Jack gracefully plays the piano for his father’s enjoyment. Robinson is a master at evoking the reader’s deepest layers of experience, as well as making the presence of the past (excuse the expression) palpable in such everyday objects as shirts and lampshades. A marvelous achievement, Home is well worth your time. Savor Gilead first, otherwise a rich dimension of meaning will be lost, or as Robinson unforgettably writes in Gilead, you will miss “the great taut skeins of light suspended between them.”

Cross-posted from Between the Lines.