Thursday, January 30, 2014

by Marilynne Robinson

The main word that comes to mind with this book is "Quiet." It is peaceful and calm, but somehow as I was rounding the corner into the final third of the novel, I realized how deeply invested I was in the characters. They are sincere and feel so real and the writing is so beautiful that it creeps in and settles around you, making you forget that you don't live in the small Iowa town of Gilead.

“It is an amazing thing to watch people laugh, the way it sort of takes them over. Sometimes they really do struggle with it . . . so I wonder what it is and where it comes from, and I wonder what it expends out of your system, so that you have to do it till you're done, like crying in a way, I suppose, except that laughter is much more easily spent.”

The book is written as a long letter from an elderly minister to his young son. He knows that his death will come before the boy has a chance to grow up and he wants to leave something for him. He wants to explain his life and decisions to him so that he can understand who his father was, even if he doesn't remember him well.

He lived his whole life in the tiny Midwestern town. He remained while others left and yet he is happy in his life. He has a strong faith, but that doesn't mean he never has questions or things he struggles with in his life. There's one man in the town who has always left him feeling disconcerted. He's felt antagonized by him for years, but truly the man is just trying to find his own peace.

“Christianity is a life, not a doctrine . . . I'm not saying never doubt or question. The Lord gave you a mind so that you would make honest use of it. I'm saying you must be sure that the doubts and questions are your own."

I have a feeling this is one of those books that will keep popping up in my mind over the years. Already I find myself thinking about it and mulling over different parts. I would highly recommend reading it when you are in the mood for a lovely quiet novel. There's no major action, it's about people that feel very real and deal with the same issues we all deal with: acceptance, regret, etc.

“These people who can see right through you never quite do you justice, because they never give you credit for the effort you're making to be better than you actually are, which is difficult and well meant and deserving of some little notice.”

“There are two occasions when the sacred beauty of Creation becomes dazzlingly apparent, and they occur together. One is when we feel our mortal insufficiency to the world, and the other is when we feel the world's mortal insufficiency to us.”


Sandy Nawrot said...

Our book club read Housekeeping a couple of years ago, after the author of Lotus Eaters (Tatiana Soli) recommended it, and we HATED it. It definitely was quiet, almost too quiet. After that experience, I'm not sure I'd jump at reading another of her books. I know, that is close-minded! It was just that bad of an experience.

Anonymous said...

Everybody who has read this has something good to say about it, and yet I still haven't read it. I think it is because you and others describe it as quiet. I'm afraid I'm going to be bored. Is that a valid concern?

JoAnn said...

I've had this on my shelf for a few years now and know it's a book I'll love... if I'm careful about matching it to my mood!

Kailana said...

I am starting to think 'quiet' books are really not my thing. I really did not like this book. It could have been a mood thing, you never know, but I don't feel any compulsion to reread it and see if my opinion has changed!

Shannon @ River City Reading said...

I've been meaning to read this book for so long and have had a copy on my shelf for months now. Sounds like I really need to pick it up. I've never seen the cover on the right, such a stark contrast to the more common one.

Anonymous said...

I am definitely in the minority with this one - I read it when it first came out, and everyone was raving about it, and I didn't like it at all! I keep wondering if it was just the place I was in back then, or if it was the book.

Brooke said...

First, I love your new blog layout! Second, Robinson is one of my to-read authors of 2014. I love quiet stories.

nomadreader said...

This novel is one of my father's favorites, but I really disliked it. Normally quiet doesn't bother me, but this one was a big miss for me.

Anonymous said...

I've wanted to read this book since I saw it on a list of Pres. Obama's top books. Thanks for reminding me to read it. I love quiet, character-driven, thoughtful books.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Sandy - I definitely wouldn't jump at trying another of her's either! I haven't read Housekeeping, but I won't look for it now!

52booksorbust - Yes, totally valid concern and honestly it's why I avoided it for so long. "Quiet" doesn't always work for me and it usually means nothing really happens. I waited until I was in the right mood and it worked, but I wouldn't recommend it to everyone.

JoAnn - Good for you! Sometimes I forget to consider my mood and it never works out.

Kailana - Yeah, I don't think this one will be very different if you return to it.

Shannon - I thought that second cover was interesting!

Carrie - I'm so glad I didn't read this one in the midst of the hype. Waiting took the pressure off the experience for me.

Brooke - Thanks! This is my first book of her's that I've read. I'm looking forward to trying Home next.

nomadreader - Quiet books are very hit or miss for me. I think mood is a huge factor with those.

figandthistle - I didn't know it was on that list, how interesting.

Anonymous said...

Loved this! :)