HomeMarilynee Robinson’s Home won the 2009 Orange Prize.

Over the past six months, I read Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping and Gilead all in an attempt to catch up so I could read Home.  I enjoyed those two books so much I have been putting off reading Home.  Soon.  Soon.

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By | 2016-05-27T15:26:29+00:00 June 3rd, 2009|Categories: News|17 Comments


  1. Candy Schultz June 3, 2009 at 3:46 pm

    And yet I have found no one who has read Home who has liked. Many cannot finish it. I am very disappointed.

  2. Trevor June 3, 2009 at 3:51 pm

    Ahh, you’re looking in the wrong places then, Candy. I have read many reviews of it that are very positive. Several who read the whole Orange Prize shortlist put it at the top of their list. And I know at least one person who read and didn’t like Gilead but loved Home, showing that you don’t need to like one to enjoy the other. Not saying there aren’t those I respect who didn’t enjoy it, but I have found them to be the minority.

  3. KevinfromCanada June 3, 2009 at 5:18 pm

    Candy: Check out Lizzy’s Literary Life review (her site is on the blogroll) for someone who really liked it. In fact, Lizzy did an online shadow jury of six of us today and it was an even split between Home and Burnt Shadows (interestingly, the two books were at the top and bottom of almost everyone’s list — it was just that some lists seemed to be upside down, if you get what I mean). From some of your observations on other books, I think you might actually like this one. I didn’t (too much religion for this non-believer) but I did finish the book and it is very, very well-written. You’ll find my thoughts on the National Book Award posting here — I didn’t express an opinion much beyond saying that it was obviously a book not written for people like me.

  4. Colette Jones June 3, 2009 at 6:08 pm

    I’m a nonbeliever too though, Kevin, and I loved Home. I had more exposure to religion as a youngster though, probably. This had less of a religious element than Gilead, and more happened that I was interested in. It’s interesting that Lizzy loved Home without having read Gilead – as you know, I wasn’t sure if that would work; glad it did.

  5. KevinfromCanada June 3, 2009 at 6:42 pm

    I did know that Colette and also how much you liked the book. I think the reason that I couldn’t engage with it was that the continuing debate between Jack and his father not only had no meaning for me, it rankled beyond annoyance because Jack becomes such an empty, manipulated character. Glory’s situation is quite a bit more interesting — and I think better developed — but it didn’t overcome my feeling that I was being manipulated by the other part of the book. Obviously, others did not feel the way that I did.

  6. Candy Schultz June 3, 2009 at 7:53 pm

    I have a visceral hatred of religion and religious books so no I have no intention of reading this. I can’t wait to get to Burnt Shadows however. I submit that there are always two groups with any book although not always black and white. That seems to be the case with Home. I am well away into The Wilderness and think it is fantastic.

  7. Trevor June 3, 2009 at 9:38 pm

    If you want to avoid religion but still get a sense for Robinson’s skill, Candy, I highly recommend Housekeeping. It won the PEN/Hemingway when it came out (and was a finalist for the Pulitzer), and it doesn’t have any religious overtones like Gilead or Home. There is Biblical imagery, like flooding and such, but I don’t see how someone can read literature and not get many doses of that.

  8. Candy Schultz June 3, 2009 at 9:55 pm

    True. I’ll keep Housekeeping in mind. Thanks.

  9. Colette Jones June 4, 2009 at 3:18 am

    Hm, I don’t mind books which have religion in them at all, especially when they show how flawed it is, as most do. I didn’t care for Gilead but there is one thing I really liked about it, and that is how wrong Ames was about Jack. He held a bias that was untrue, and no amount of praying and godliness was going to change that. Only listening to Jack could do that, which he eventually does.

    Similarly, in Home, Jack’s father is flawed in his reasoning. He thinks he’s being a good, compassionate man trying to accept Jack, but he doesn’t really accept him, does he? He feels superior, the thing about some religious people that really rankles with me. Glory is such a good friend to Jack because she does not feel superior, and in a strange way I think she looks up to Jack. The building of the siblings’ friendship was beautifully told.

    Kevin, it’s interesting that you saw Jack becoming an empty character, whereas I would say that’s how the father developed. Jack showed more compassion in looking after his father than perhaps his racist and bigotted father deserved.

    Candy, would you avoid Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson? I read it recently and I have not laughed so hard at a book since Owen Meany.

  10. _lethe_ June 4, 2009 at 8:33 am

    Personally I was a bit disappointed with Home after I loved Gilead so much. I found it more “ordinary”, and Jack remains a frustrating mystery.

    I plan to reread it some time though, because I might have been in the wrong mood for it.

  11. KevinfromCanada June 4, 2009 at 10:24 am

    Colette: You are right — “empty” is probably the wrong word. I agree with your assessment of the relationship between father and son and the latent superiority the father both feels and shows. My frustration with Jack as a character was that he just accepted that definition of the state of play.

    See Trevor, you probably should have read the book sooner and we wouldn’t be spoiling it for you with all these obscure discussions. I haven’t read Gilead but I do seem to notice that those who have read both showed a marked preference for one or the other. Once you have read Home I will be looking for an explanation of why this is so.

  12. Colette Jones June 4, 2009 at 12:50 pm

    Ah, now I understand your frustration with Jack and I had forgotten that you hadn’t read Gilead, Kevin. Unfortunately, I think you have to get all the way through Gilead to understand Jack, even though Robinson says it should stand alone, and certainly some people loved Home without having read Gilead, e.g. Lizzy Siddal. I note that she didn’t have any sympathy or empathy for Jack, and I think that’s what you lose by only reading Home.

  13. KevinfromCanada June 4, 2009 at 1:00 pm

    I am going to accept your point and I am still not going to read Gilead. I do intend to read Housekeeping, since I am intrigued by Trevor’s insight that the title is actually subtle reflection of American law.

  14. Trevor June 4, 2009 at 1:34 pm

    I’ve been only slightly paying attention to the Home discussion as I plan to read it. When I do though, Kevin, I’ll try to figure out which I like better and why that might be so.

    As for Housekeeping being a subtle reflection of American law, that might be more of a suggestion than an insight. I couldn’t believe how many zoning ordinances, primarily meant to keep a certain traditional type of family in an area, reference “housekeeping” as a term that somehow encompasses that. The book does contain the literal and metaphoric meanings of “housekeeping,” but it also deals with family law (always in the background) and unconventional families.

    I’d love to know if this was intentional or if it’s just a nice coincidence that made the book come together for me in a different way than it would for other people. Does anyone know Marilynne Robinson’s Twitter account??

  15. Vicki June 4, 2009 at 6:25 pm

    Argh, another person who hasn’t read Home! I blogged on it anyway – thinking readers might help me out but now I think I might be in trouble!! I’d be interested in your thoughts on Gilead if you have time though! Vicki

  16. Trevor June 4, 2009 at 7:35 pm

    Hi Vicki, you can find my intial thoughts on Gilead here. I will be reading Home but I don’t know when yet. I still don’t have it, so I’ll probably at this point wait until it’s out in paperback. It’ll come up here, though!

  17. Nicola June 8, 2009 at 3:18 pm

    I adored Gilead. Home is Gilead from another perspective but I didn’t enjoy it as much. Just seemed to be endless days of not much happening, yes, life is like that, but it doesn’t always make for a great read. It fills some of the gaps from Gilead, though.

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