Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

It's well documented that I am a huge fan of Robinson's other novel Housekeeping so I can't really explain why it took me so long to get around to Gilead. But a dollar copy at the Delray Beach Public Library finally drew me in, and the novel is all that reviewers have said: lovely, significant, deeply spiritual and meditative. For once, the jacket copy did not seem excessive in the least. But what interested me most about the novel (which is in the form of a journal that an eldery minister keeps for his very young son to read in the future) is how it pairs up with Housekeeping. It does not have the big plot that H has (it's a masterful example of how withholding the smallest mystery can keep a reader turning pages as long as the sentences and ideas are good) but it is very much a companion piece. H. traces the line of women in a family and how they shape each other, Gilead does the same for a line of men. H. is the story of a daughter who lost her mother as a child, G. is the story of a father who knows his son will lose him very soon. H. is about a daughter who seems to find a spiritual quality in the world and G. is about a father who wants to instill that spirituality in his son from beyond the grave. Anyway, it's interesting to see how Robinson has written two novels that are both grounded in her own worldview but that bookend each other without ever feeling like one is repeating the other. I hope that she'll write a third novel without waiting 24 years in between, but if she doesn't her oeuvre is still remarkably deep.

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