Lila (Gilead #3) by Marilynne Robinson : A Book Review

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When I found it  by chance at a Book Sale branch , I muttered, “ Finally, I got you. I have been looking for you.” , holding it as though I did not  let any book scavengers  there to swoon over it, for they could have been in the same boat with me. When I went home, I wrapped it with plastic cover as how I usually take care of my books with gloves, especially it is a hard bound in pristine condition- very clean and unused; I love hard bounds!  I   tend to   read them with more enthusiasm. In fact, it may appear idiosyncratic  for you , but I would  bundle it  with a paper bag to make sure that it  would  not  be stained with any dirt  inside my bag wherever I brought it with me to school.

Gee, that’s how I was motivated to read Lila, along with Gilead and Homecoming upon reading Home ( 4 stars ). I was impressed by Home in which I discovered  Robinson’s   unique writing styles- unconventional , quietly boring but lyrically spell-binding   and   cathartically  smoothing.

However, I confess that I regret having read it. Take my advice. Why?

Both  the characters Rev. James Ames and Rev. Boughton  are already mentioned in the first and second books:  Rev Ames in Gilead and Rev. Boughton in Home.  In Lila, Rev. Ames’s and Bro. Boughton’s  life stories , especially their deep relationship and life stories left behind in the aforementioned books are interrelated. It is much better that you have some  ideas  of the two books so you can understand the story more deeply.

Therefore, I confess that I had a hard time appreciating it.

Probably, I am not inured to the sentences cleverly unconventional. They seem to be unintelligible to me. I just let the words float in the chambers of my mind, or  I did not let myself blend into the background of the story. I just read and read .

Maybe, compared to Home which I felt   the heart-oozing effects , I should have had  to  absorb  grossly in the book although I could feel the hidden emotions. Maybe, this one, Robinson’s Gilead # 3  did not pass my taste. I wonder about her Gilead which I should have read first.

Still, the book is remarkably paralleled to any other contemporary writers. I liked her way of unconventional writing styles. She does not care whatever writing standards she should conform to as long as she writes all the  out-of-this-world ideas running inside of her mind. She just writes and writes and writes. That’s it!

Still, the plot of the story is as labyrinthine as her unconventional writing style that I was challenged to hang in there just to  get at the  real  concept of the story, as though  it is hidden by  grass and shrubs growing rampant in an uncharted territory somewhere in an openly wide place of a jungle which only few could reach.

Its theme   has little resemblance to  the  other Black-American novels ‘ that someone older marries someone younger.  In some Black-American novels I have read such as in the Pulitzer-Prize winning novel, The Color Purple by Alice Walker and even in some novels of Toni Morison, one of my most favorite contemporary writers, usually older black men are into relationship with younger  ones. However, they   illustrate their   black masculine   and patriarchal superiority to   black women, not far different from what white men did in the past, but in this novel, the man is a preacher, the antithesis of  the said patriarchal superiority.  With this idea, I had predicted that the preacher,Rev. Ames ,would change the other parts of the story, but I swallowed my words.  For instance, take a double look at the conversation   below between   Rev.  Ames and his young wife , Lila,  that shivered in  my spinal cord:

“I guess there’s something   the matter with me, old man. I can’t love you as much as I love you. I can’t feel as happy as I am.”

“ I know, “ he said. “ I don’t think    it’s anything to worry about. I don’t worry about it, really.”

“ I got so much life behind me.”

“ I know.”

“ I miss it sometimes.”

He nodded. :” We aren’t so different. There   are things I miss .”

She said, “ I might have to go back to it sometime. The part I could go back to , what with the child.”

“ Yes, “ he said.” I’ve given that some thought .  I know you’ll do the best you can. The best that  can be done. I’ll be leaving you on your own. We’ve both always known that. I can’t tell you how deeply I regret it.“

This conversation brainwashed   my moralistic view, of society ,  all along that age has nothing to do with an intimate relationship. Probably, an old man can marry a younger   girl, beyond the questions of biological and mental aspects.

As a rule, books have latent meanings, so do not just read it literally. Rev. James Ames has a big role in molding Lila’s existentialism and   spirituality as does Lila in his life. That’s why I liked it. However,  the only challenge as I put it above is how to get the gist of it since Robinson’s prose is like grass and shrubs growing rampant in an uncharted territory. Indeed, Marillynne Robinson is now considered as one America’s most  significant writers. ^^

Since- I apologize to  spoiling it- Reverend dies at the end of the story, I wonder what Robinson has in the store. Probably, Lila’s son is the next story?  But as of now I’ve been obsessed about her Gilead. I  should read it first.  By then, I will have  been groomed to read her next book. ^^

Rating : 3/ 5 stars ( I liked it. )

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6 thoughts on “Lila (Gilead #3) by Marilynne Robinson : A Book Review

  1. Really? I don’t recall Ames dying. Also curious to know what made you decide to read Home first knowing that it’s part of a series. I know the books are not meant to be read in order, but I suppose one can appreciate Lila more had they read Gilead first. Well that’s just me. I love Robinson. She is my favorite living American writer.

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    • Oh, I believe Ames does. You can read it at the end of the story. I guess on the 5 last pages. Actually, I enjoyed the Lila although I have not read Gilead yet, but as what you’ve said people can appreciate it more if they begin reading it.
      I liked Home very much because the prose Robinson used in it is perfectly matched with what element she really wanted to illustrate: suppressible feelings. Quiet but you could be touched, you could be cut to the quick.
      Probably, I could relate to the story since it’s all about a conflict between a father and his children.^^

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      • Well, Lila’s prose is also reflective of the central character. Its style is a departure from Gilead and Home. She’s confused and she’s learning stuff. She’s a mystery, even to herself. I skimmed the last five pages and I don’t think Ames died. The novel ended with the birth of their son. The son and Ames are very much alive in Gilead so Ames couldn’t have been dead.

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      • Sounds like the stories from Gilead to Lila are all interrelated. Not that they happened in the past whereas the stories in Lila are just the historical continuation or sequence?
        The dialogue I quoted in my review has something to do with Ames’s premonition of his dying. In fact, the son has grown up in the last pages. Prior to that, there is a scene that Ames is being buried. At that point, the son is described as a toddler.Gee, let me take a double look at it as soon as I get home tonight. ^^

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