Robinson, Marilynne. Home. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2008.
This is a story that follows Glory and Jack and their coming home to be with their dying father. "Jack is Jack" is repeated throughout the book and the reader. The book spans just a few months, but these months are pivotal to the Boughton family. This story mirrors the story of the prodigal son.
Home. This is a place of refuge to most, but to Glory and Jack, home becomes a place of resolving the past. "Home. What kinder place could there be on earth, and why did it seem to them all like exile?...how the soul could be put at ease, restored. At home. But the soul finds its own home if it ever has a home at all" (Robinson 282). They are minister's children who have not lived up to what their father expects. Glory has a "questionable" marriage and must quit her teaching profession. Glory is a sentimental character. "She wept easily" and a little too often in this book (Robinson 14) .
Jack has dropped off the face of the earth for twenty years. He is truly a character on the fringe of society. The longer he is at home, the more we find out about his absence and his state of mind. "It was hard for me [Jack] to be here. I could never--trust myself. Anywhere." (Robinson 273). The reader also wonders if Jack came home to receive his father's blessing. By the time Jack gets up the courage and conviction to say something about this to his dad, his dad's dementia has started.
One thing that I enjoyed about this book is Robinson's embedding of hymns. As I read, I caught myself humming the familiar tunes as Jack played them on the piano. I wish that I would have marked them as I read because I think they are significant. One hymn that is repeated in the novel is "Softly and Tenderly" which describes the mood of the house. Glory, Jack and their dad all move through the house softly and tenderly.
As Robert Boughton is a retired minister, there are many biblical allusions in the text. One ironic seed that is planted early comes from Proverbs. "Train up a child in the way he should go and even when he is old he will not depart from it. The proverb was true in her [Glory's] case" (Robinson 110). Even though Glory is the dutiful child and is taking care of her father, we see much more "training" with Jack. He knows Scripture. He questions his father's beliefs. He seeks understanding. Yet, he is the character whose life patterns are negative.
Home is a companion book to Robinson's earlier novel Gilead. In both novels, we see events from two perspectives: Glory Boughton (Home) and Reverend John Ames (Gilead). As I have not read Gilead, I was pleased to hear at the book discussion some connections or "the rest of the story" about events that happened to Jack.
Overall, I enjoyed the book and it raised questions to me personally, but it is not a book I will probably read again. I might try Gilead to see Ames' side of life in the town Gilead.