Home

They had always been so careful of him, almost afraid to touch him. There was an aloofness about him more thoroughgoing than modesty or reticence. It was feral, and fragile. It had enforced a peculiar decorum on them all, even on their mother. There was always the moment when they acknowledged this–no hugging, no roughhousing could include him. Even his father patted his shoulder tentatively, shy and cautious. Why should a child have defended his loneliness that way? But let him have his ways, their father said, or he would be gone. He’d smile at them across that distance, and the smile was sad and hard, and it meant estrangement, even when he was with them.

— from Home by Marilynne Robinson, 2008

This selection is only one of the ways Marilynne Robinson wins my heart through her characterization. Here she is describing Jack, a prodigal son come home during the last bit of his father’s life. Home with him, and taking care of their father, is his sister Glory. Both brother and sister are revealed slowly, satisfyingly, and lovingly. Home has a plot, of course, but I like to think the book is more about who the characters are. The reader delves deeply into their lives, their histories, and their thoughts. I have been reading stories by the Bronte sisters lately, and they do characterization so well, too. It is my favorite thing about reading: meeting new people, and learning about them so much more intimately than I can learn about my own friends through conversation.

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “Home”

    1. *Gilead* was the first M. Robinson book I read, and I loved that old pastor:) Theologically, I related to him more than the old pastor in *Home,* but I admired the family dynamics in *Home* more than in *Gilead.* I read *Housekeeping* last, and didn’t like it as much. That’s okay. Can’t like everything:)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s