Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson: A Book Review

 

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Reading another Marilynne Robinson’s work is another heavenly and fulfilling achievement. Her novels are arresting because they deal with family situations, imbued with suppressed  feelings we may relate to , conveyed in unconventionally recoiling ,but  creatively poetic prose- her writing style  which turns out to be acceptable  in literature.

For me, Robinson is one of the writers I have known so far whose prose is so powerful that I could be overwhelmed with the covert feelings. No wonder I had been looking for this novel for a long time. In fact, I don’t even brush off the idea of why Gilead  has been the pandemonium among literary readers on Goodreads whenever her name is being brought up. I wish to find it at an affordable price and in pristine condition.

Since her novels Home and  Lila had a great emotional impact on me , I have found that there seems to be preternatural effects while reading her work. I am not sure of her other works, but three of hers are enough to bear witness to my delusional claim. The hidden and adamant emotions tend to ooze out despite they are coated with her unorthodox or unconventional prose. Unorthodox or unconventional prose because Robinson writes sentences beyond literary rules. Compare hers with Irish writer Colm Tóibín‘s in his impressive The Master for instance. For this reason, reading her novels may appear to be hard, heavy, nose-and-brain bleeding except her Home because I was so into it and lost track of time, the springboard for my interest in reading another Robinson works. Thus, reading her works may require a matter of multi-tasking concentration. I wonder if native speakers get what I am jabbering about.  Nevertheless, I could feel the ghostly restricted atmosphere of the story: the gloominess, the sadness, the sense of loss, the joyfulness, the hatred, the desires – all the feelings that have   been harbored for a long time because of the past that should have been left behind the presence.

Housekeeping, aside from being in the Guardian’s 1001-Best- Novels-You-Must-Read-Before-You-Die list, is included by TIME magazine as one of 100 Best English-language Novels since 1923 to 2005. Lila and Home   have been added recently by the Guardian if I am not mistaken. Comparatively and subjectively speaking, Home is my favorite. I cried over it a lot. I felt the withered or dormant emotions Robinson wanted her readers to blow up. I felt the cathartic tears flowing down my cheeks. It was a therapeutic experience. The story is psychologically realistic after all. Besides, it really reminded me of my cold conflict with my father then. However, with respect to creativity, magical mastery for writing a novel, Lila and Housekeeping stand out. They have proven Robinson’s unparalleled, incomparable writing skills- her ability to dramatically animate the story despite it is covered with bricks of “suppressible” prose, and that is something I would say Robinson’s trademark. Gotcha?

The big challenge for me next time since Robinson is known for her heavy prose is how to finish her novel. I admit that it took me a few days before I managed to finish it given that it is not that as ambitious as her other works. I was like an adventurous book traveler lost in a chimerical book land trudging through different places to reach its revealing denouement. Good grief! I made it, but the experience is not traumatic. Rather, the proverb,” The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” popped into my mind, and I mustered enough courage to do so. There it is! Eureka! Marilynne Robinson is a gifted writer, indeed, someone all literary readers should celebrate about. So, count me in!!!

Ironically, Gilead ( 2004), Home (2008), and Lila ( 2014) are supposed to be a trilogy , but I first read Home and Lila consecutively. Housekeeping is Marilynne Robinson’s first novel.

When I reviewed Robinson’s Home before, I predicted that she would belong to my roller or  walk of favorite writers. It was like letting her first pass through the hole of my needle before she meets my standard. Taray! (laughs) However, after reading her Lila, her application for that is still pending. (Figuratively laughing) To put it bluntly, I have aversion to reading books dealing with religious convictions no matter how good they are. Apparently, most of Robinson’s novels are steeped in religion or faith. Who won’t forget Rev. James and Rev. Boughton? Ok fine! I am biased! (laughs) Nevertheless, Housekeeping is another stepping stone for me to explore Robinson’s great mind. I have learned that there is no such a perfectly standardized novel. What matters most is the deep connection between a reader and a story, and that’s something I will learn to practice on my writing styles. As what Virginia Woolf put it, “ A book has a soul.”

Rating: 4/ 5 stars ( I really liked it.)

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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. )

Home (Gilead #2) by Marilynne Robinson: A Book Review

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“You must forgive in order to understand.” Marilynne Robinson, Home

There may be different kinds of readers. Readers who read something exciting that you almost tear or crumple the next page, something intriguing which  scenes or characters dwell upon you, something compelling that you would be keyed-up about and share with your friends, or something that you are excited to wait for its sequel. I may be this kind of reader. However, it has always occurred to me how a reader puts up with something quiet, something that does not show liveliness among the characters in the story, and something that a writer intends to tell in a smooth, calm voice, and something that can make you throw it up in the air, for you find it so boring. HOME by Marilynne Robinson is the one that could be mistaken for. Nonetheless, there is something far different about this book, something newer, more unparalleled than I had expected.

This book does not only beg the question of what HOME is, but also this is conducive to catharsis. If you have these pent-up emotions, reading it can somehow soothe you. You might not help yourself holding back your tears, welling up in your eyes. If you have been nursing a grudge against your father or even against any member of the family- brother, sister, or mother- you might cave in to forgiveness. You may not harbor ill will toward them. In fact, this book is reminiscent of your childhood. You might remember all the moments you spent with your family at a place you considered your HOME, and now they are gone. So when you read this book, you might have these indescribable feelings whenever you turn each page as though you are being healed, for you may relate to the story. But I believe whoever reads it can be vulnerable.

This book, no doubt, won the 2009 Orange Prize  for fiction, Long  Angeles TIMES Book Prize  , one of the “100 Notable Books of 2008” by The New York Times, one of the “Best Books of 2008” by The Washington Post, one of the “Favorite Books 2008” of The Los Angeles Times, one of the “Best Books of 2008” of The San Francisco Chronicle, as well as one of The New Yorker book critic James Wood’s ten favorite books of 2008. (Source: Wikipedia)

Despite the fact that its author has received a good deal of prestigious awards and is well-known for her other critically acclaimed novels such as Gilead  and Housekeeping, I had not  laid a finger on nor given a thought of buying it even though it is almost dirty cheap in BOOKSALE branches . In addition, its common cover in any publishing edition, illustrating a rocking chair, known as Morris chair in the story, had given me an idea that this book might have been monotonous. But not at all! This turned out to be a good read and I would highly recommend it to everybody.

Mmm,I want to get healed more by Marilynne Robinson by reading her Gilead which is a companion to Home. Although I should have first read the Gilead,giving it 4 stars is reasonable; I really liked it.

I can predict that M. Robinson will be one of my favorite writers. ^^

Rating : 4/ 5 stars  ( I really liked it. )