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Home by Marilynne Robinson

Updated: Feb 21, 2020

In my opinion Robinson succeeds in this monumental undertaking of retelling the same story from a different point-of-view. She succeeds largely due to two factors: her magnificent lyrical prose, and her ability to portray the depth of humanity in her characters. Gilead is told from the perspective of Reverend John Ames, a congregational minister in the small town of Gilead. Home is written from the perspective of Glory, the daughter of Ames’ best friend.

The subject matter does not overlap entirely, but substantially. Even where the same events are being explored in both books we find significant differences in the perception of different characters. In this manner Robinson is able to explore how different people are shaped by the same events in significantly different ways, and the vital importance that perspective plays in the shaping. In Home Robinson especially explores the relationships between Glory, her brother Jack, and their father, Reverend Robert Boughton.

Reverend Boughton’s health is failing, and Glory moves back to Gilead to care for her dad. Shortly after she arrives home, her brother Jack visits as well. Jack is the black sheep of the family. He has not visited the family in twenty years, even failing to return for his mother’s funeral. Through the interactions of these three characters, Robinson explores the depth of human experience in all its variegated detail. In the process, the Boughton family almost becomes a character of its own.

It seems to me that Robinson is ruthless in her refusal to settle for stock characters. Her characters are multi-layered. They have annoying foibles and glorious gifts. They do some things right and some things terribly wrong. We empathize with them in one moment, and we find ourselves frustrated in the next. I think this richness in character is what I appreciate most about Robinson. If you desire a author who will take you on a journey into the depths of our humanity with all its contradictions, I would heartily recommend Robinson.

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