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. )