Marilynne Robinson’s Home at the Book Group

Marilynne Robinson, Home (Farrar, Straus & Giroux 2008)

This will be quick as my blogging time this month is mostly taken up with writing what poet and commenter John Malone has called, at least by implication, unremarkable sonnets.

In Marilynne Robinson’s novel, Jack, the black sheep of a midwestern Presbyterian pastor’s family comes home for a couple of months, rebuilds some kind of relationship with his youngest sister, now 38 and home to lick her wounds after being exploited by a cad, and fails to reconcile with his ageing father. Perhaps unexpectedly, it was a great success at the book group. Most of us loved it, and those who didn’t were still interested. Over excellent quiches and salad, followed by ice creams on sticks that our host had bought for his grandchildren, we had some of the most animated discussion we’ve had since I joined the group. Several of us are planning to read or reread the companion novel Gilead.

I was just a little smug to be able to report that I’d picked up early on the clues that Jack’s great, lost love might be Black. My recent reading of W E B Du Bois’ Souls of Black Folk meant that I got the hint when Glory asked Jack what he was reading :

‘W.E.B. DuBois,’ he said. ‘Have you heard of him?’
‘Well, yes. I’ve heard of him. I thought he was a Communist.’
He laughed. ‘Isn’t everybody? I mean, if you believe the newspapers?’ He said, ‘Now I suppose you’ll think I’m up here reading propaganda.’

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