>Because Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead is one of my favorite novels, one might assume that I would be excited about her newest novel, Home, particularly since it deals with the same characters and events as Gilead.
I confess, however, that I picked up Home with trepidation. I have never been a huge fan of sequels, believing they are frequently quick efforts to cash in on the original’s lucrative streak and that they often demonstrate a decline in literary quality. I feared Home would disappoint.
It did. But not because it met my usual expectations for sequels.
Home is not, in the strict sense, a sequel. It does not pick up where Gilead left off. It is better described as a companion volume, written about the same people in the same place, but from another perspective. Rather than a first person account from Rev. John Ames’ point of view, it is a third person account from Glory Boughton’s point of view. In Gilead, Glory appeared as a minor character on the story’s fringe: the disappointed-in-love daughter of Rev. John Ames’ friend “Old Boughton” who had come home to care for her father. The reader sensed that Rev. Ames cared about her, prayed for her, and appreciated her friendship with his wife. But he records only a few instances of her actions and dialogue. She is not part of Gilead’s many prominent motifs.
Some Gilead fans may find the Boughton household fascinating as they encounter the same events recounted in Gilead, this time uncovering the Boughton response and discovering the Boughton dynamics.
But these revelations spoil the beauty and mystery that is Gilead.
Home’s writing exhibits Robinson’s literary talents; it skillfully displays the fragility of life and relationships; it aptly depicts Jack’s struggle to love and live.
But Home lacks Gilead’s thematic development and plot complexities. It lacks Gilead’s technical brillance and figurative language. It lacks Rev. Ames’ gentle voice and humble faith. Most of all, Home lacks Gilead‘s abiding mystery and undulating luminosity.
And that is disappointing.