Marilynne Robinson, Home (Farrar, Straus & Giroux 2008)
I’m intending to write a little more about this book, probably in prose, after the Group meets to discuss it later in the week. But for now, it’s grist to the relentlessly demanding LoSoRhyMo mill. So far my sonneteering attempts have been in jaunty tetrameters. The cadences of Marilynne Robinson’s prose urge the more reflective pentameter. First, a quote from the book. This one come close to stating a central theme:
There is a saying that to understand is to forgive, but that is an error, so Papa use to say. You must forgive in order to understand. Until you forgive, you defend yourself against the possibility of understanding.
There are plenty of pearls of wisdom like this, that are even more profound in context than out. Papa spends most of the book struggling to live up to the wisdom attributed to him here. It’s a wonderful book, though perhaps not as luminous as MR’s previous novel, Gilead. But here goes with my sonnet (and I’m afraid this one isn’t so much verse as something less than prose that’s tortured into rhyme):
Sonnet 4: On reading Marilynne Robinson’s Home
At book’s page one, the youngest Boughton, Glory,
betrayed in love, tears ever in her eyes,
returns to father’s home, rejoins his story
where God is love and love won’t compromise.
Soon brother Jack arrives, to hymns of praise
(praise God, for Jack himself’s no saint, but rather
an anti–Seymour Glass, the clan’s disgrace
much loved, lamented, prayed for by his father).
So father, son and Glory join a dance
of careful kindness, trust that’s tentative.
When stern theology allows a chance
the ailing father struggles to forgive
until Jack’s tragic truth is clear to see:
‘Cry if you want to, chum,’ he says. ‘Feel free.’