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95 of 102 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The prodigal son comes home 4.5 stars
'Home to stay, Glory! Yes!' her father said, and her heart sank. He attempted a twinkle of joy at this thought, but his eyes were damp with commiseration. 'To stay for a while this time!' he amended, and took her bag from her, first shifting his cane to his weaker hand.'

Marilynne Robinson's Home opens with retired minister Robert Broughton's youngest...
Published on 27 Nov 2008 by purpleheart

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52 of 58 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Another visit to Gilead
I mistakenly thought Marilynne Robinson's Home was a sequel to Gilead (2004). It's not. It's contemporaneous -- the same story from a different perspective, though knowledge of the earlier Pulitzer-winning novel is assumed. One almost wonders whether Home started life as a notebook for Gilead. Ever wondered what supporting characters in novels do when they're not on the...
Published on 11 Feb 2009 by Jonathan Birch


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95 of 102 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The prodigal son comes home 4.5 stars, 27 Nov 2008
By 
purpleheart (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Home (Hardcover)
'Home to stay, Glory! Yes!' her father said, and her heart sank. He attempted a twinkle of joy at this thought, but his eyes were damp with commiseration. 'To stay for a while this time!' he amended, and took her bag from her, first shifting his cane to his weaker hand.'

Marilynne Robinson's Home opens with retired minister Robert Broughton's youngest daughter reluctantly returning to her father's house, her childhood home - essentially to nurse him as he dies. She is one of eight children, the only one free to take care of him. She has brought her own secrets back to her house - her life has not followed the conventions of 1950s small town America. Her brother Jack, the 'ne'er do well' of the family, the son most beloved of the father, writes to say that he will be coming home after twenty years.

The prodigal returns with a hangover but seeks to make amends for the disgrace he brought to the family as a youngster. We gradually learn of his wrongdoings as a boy and snippets of his life since. Though he is not religious he turns to John Ames, also a minister and Robert Broughton's life long friend - and for whom Jack was named - for a blessing and redemption. Jack's life is clearly still complicated - there is a woman he writes to but something has gone wrong. As readers we understand, perhaps, more about his relationship with Della and the secret involved there than his family living in the same house are able to pick up.

Everything slows down in the middle of the novel as Jack looks for work, fixes the De Soto in the garage, works in the garden and avoids booze. Glory and Jack start to grow close though their shared work about the house and garden, through small kindnesses to each other and in sharing the care of their father. In a family where words and letters and books have always been important they do not talk much; communication is indirect and politeness and well-meaning gets in the way. Jack and Glory do tell each other more than either can tell their father.

The novel is strong on time and place. Jack has been living in St Louis and sympathises with the 'coloured' and in 1957 what appears to be the incipient civil rights movement. Gilead is small town America where Jack's disgrace was visited on the whole family. There is genteel poverty and there is the sense of life revolving around the church and home. As Robert Broughton comes to the end of his life it is Jack's immortal soul he is concerned for.

Though very different in style Home reminded me of Anne Enright's The Gathering where two siblings of a large family have a special bond, where the sister longs for her 'damaged' brother to come right, where there is the sadness of unrealised potential.

This novel stands alone but is a companion piece to Gilead, which was written from the point of view of letters from elderly John Ames to his six year old son, and covers much of the same period of time. We see now how John Ames and his namesake have misunderstood each other. I think the third person narrative style in Home works well. Though also a novel about fathers and sons Glory provides another point of view, another player in the family dynamics. Robert Broughton longs to forgive his son but can't quite manage to do it. Glory forgives him quickly and manages to wish more for him than she expects for herself.

I loved Housekeeping, was not fully enamoured of Gilead when it came out but will return to it after reading Home, which I thought was beautifully written and realised, though very very sad.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What is home?, 18 Sep 2009
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This review is from: Home (Paperback)
Expecting a fast paced yarn or novel heavy on plot will disappoint readers, but if you allow yourself to let the stillness of the prose take you into the stifling world of the ailing rector's house and be part of each character's search for their own sense of 'home', you'll be rewarded. Home in the sense of the physical, the spiritual, the historical and family is all gently
considered. Whilst this exploration is thought provoking it's final inconclusiveness is the saddest conclusion of all possible endings and something that lasts a long time after the book is read. I loved it.
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52 of 58 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Another visit to Gilead, 11 Feb 2009
By 
Jonathan Birch (Cambridge) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Home (Hardcover)
I mistakenly thought Marilynne Robinson's Home was a sequel to Gilead (2004). It's not. It's contemporaneous -- the same story from a different perspective, though knowledge of the earlier Pulitzer-winning novel is assumed. One almost wonders whether Home started life as a notebook for Gilead. Ever wondered what supporting characters in novels do when they're not on the page? No? Well now you can find out anyway. It's probably a good idea to leave all your expectations at the door with Home, as its markedly different to Robinson's previous novels.

Where Housekeeping (1980) and Gilead were masterful fictionalized memoirs that dove deep into their narrator's personal and family history, Home is a reasonably straightforward, third-person, temporally-continuous narrative. Jack Boughton arrives home after twenty years to live in the desolate house of his ailing minister father, Robert, and his heartbroken spinster sister, Glory.

Though the narration looks-in on the thoughts of Glory (now all but a servant to her father), Glory is primarily a spectator to the comings and goings of Jack, who is the central driving force in the plot. In his childhood, he fathered a child and ran away. He returns from his time in the wilderness disgraced, determined to win the support of his father and the Rev'd John Ames (his namesake and the narrator of Gilead), hoping against hope to build a settled life for himself in this isolated Iowa town, dreaming that his wife will return to him from St Louis.

It sounds like the setup for a great novel. And it is. But that novel is Gilead. Home, though still good, pales in comparison. Housekeeping and Gilead are wonderful for their subjectiveness: their whimsical, unreliable narration, full of little reminisces, stories from long ago and (in Ames's case) offhand insights regarding theology. But Home is practically a study of boredom -- it's three miserable, ordinary people, living in an empty house. It's Big Brother 1956.

The book's strength is, unsurprisingly, Robinson's sensational descriptive prose. Though I was left nonplussed by Home, I still say without hesitation that Robinson is one of the best stylists of English I've ever come across, and the magician that wowed the world with Housekeeping is still in evidence here. Robinson can still write a stunning sentence, but this whole is less than the sum of its parts.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars One half of a pair, 1 Mar 2010
By 
Mrs. Katharine Kirby "Kate" (HELSTON, Cornwall United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Home (Paperback)
`Home' and Gilead are, to me, as one and should be sold strapped firmly together. Neither makes total sense without the other but it doesn't matter which order in which you read them, just believe me they are less satisfactory taken singly. I can't really speak highly enough the kind of talent that can so lightly show the ability to carry two sides of a life story told from the two different viewpoints; that of a father and a god father. So flip sides of the coin they are and beautiful in their writing. Choking back tears as you read you may find yourself looking at the world in a new way. In seeing the story from two angles you gain a great deal of wider knowledge.

However, it is difficult and sometimes heavy stuff indeed, so may not appeal universally and I do see why. If you are ready to read at a slower pace and take on board the way of thinking that frets endlessly about the care of a soul, you will be rewarded. This reward will be a revelation, a fine portrait of a good old age and a deeper understanding regarding the importance of family.

Such eloquence as shown in the dialogue in these books is perhaps a thing of the past but what a gift it is. The beautiful old words of the Book of Common Prayer and the Holy Bible are a joy; they sparkle through some of the more dull religious arguments. Today the complicated feelings expressed in the words of the 1950's would include curses a thousand fold worse than the occasional taking of the Lords name in vain uttered by poor, poor Jack Broughton. No comfort in a crisis compared the ability to use an extensive vocabulary and glorious, educated language to explain. An example being of Glory's last exasperated, memorable, words to Jack when she says of his leaving just a little while before his Father will die - "This is it, this is your masterpiece". There is wit and wisdom too, in spades. The kind of `in jokes' that demonstrate a doctoral knowledge of Greek, Latin and the scriptures.

The idea of prayer being a conduit to another's thoughts is carried so far as to make it almost equate to a mobile phone call today. Urgency and terror are assuaged by prayer in a sometime forgotten way. Divine rather than human help is close at hand for dear Glory and her believing family.

While reading this tale of siblings, a large number being off-stage; Jack and Glory are re-forming their childhood relationships into new roles consistent with adulthood - enduring all the attendant difficulties and awkwardness's; stepping gently for fear of stirring up offence and retribution. You should feel kindly transported back to the world of the nineteen fifties when people were more circumspect. Marilynne Robinson writes of measured, touching, gentle consideration of other's feelings at one's own expense, suppressed emotions and acceptance of reality without outwardly shown rage. Resigned and passive in their tender, considerate care of their father; Jack and Glory shine in goodness. Always calling their father "Sir" Jack and Teddy remain polite, mannerly children in their own middle age. The comfort of keeping company through days that cannot be changed but can be made sweeter by a special meal, brushed hair and clean linen. Reassurance shown by carrying out their work in view of their loving father who just savours the sound of their voices around the house.

My favourite quote which describes this consideration was "A failed lie meant his (Father's) suspicions were correct...In fact lying in that family almost always meant only that the liar would appreciate discretion. So transparency of a falsehood was very much to the point." i.e. in today's language "Leave Me Alone!"

Such strong loyalty to the church and preacher as an authority to be revered (as in their addressing the men of the cloth as Reverend) is also something to be reminded of. Silently giving support to their Pastor, the people of Gilead discreetly leave presents of food at times of need and show their caring by putting small things right about the parsonage, all gifts recognisable in their substance and personality, everyone knows everyone else so well.

And there was the terrible `colour bar' to question or accept. We are so much easier about these things today that you almost miss the clues to the true reason for Jack's torment. What a reminder.

The gut wrenching fear of living with a drinker and potential suicide frightens and involves, pulling you into the moment. Sympathy and respect for Glory grow as you read.

It may be helpful to ponder on the apparent futility of worrying as a lifelong occupation, ending so often in self reproach and assuming the mantle of one's own guilt in relation to the wrong doings of your children. Jack's Father's hopes and fears are all the more poignant because of his old age and frailty. I did not feel quite so sympathetic to his Godfather John Ames who seemed to be two steps behind, endlessly trying to catch up with his conscience.

Old values are buffed up and again shown the light of day for us to contemplate, the love of old things such as furniture, books and, well, "Home" just as it always was. Do the young have a duty to keep things as they were for the possible future comfort they may provide to a Prodigal Son? I enjoyed Glory's fantasies of a light, clutter free house and her little preparations for that goal that Jack helped her with towards the end. Household goods were never replaced as any ostentation would raise the Reverend's family above their neighbours which would be unfair, even though this large Broughton family of eight children (most of whom remain silent characters throughout) are well set up by their grandparents' foresight and bequests to the present generation. The house is `free and clear', education is taken as a right and there is food in plenty. Mother and then daughter kindly heal the rifts after family troubles with the fragrance of careful cooking wafting through the house - the house which seems itself to have a soul and character.

If it possible to fall in love with a character in a book well I am pretty keen on Teddy and just wish he had been around more. He had so much to offer and was such a devoted brother and son. In `Gilead' John Ames speaks about the other siblings though Glory - `She has sent out the alarm to the brothers and sisters, that they must desist from their humanitarian labours and come home.'

What a learned and lettered family they are, their communications always richly rewarding, and what a contrast to some religiously based recent reading - "The Shack" for example!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Signicance of Home, 8 Dec 2009
By 
Herman Norford "Keen Reader" (Birmingham, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Home (Paperback)
So I finally got around to reading Marilynne Robinson's third novel, Home. It's a novel that comes burdened with the success of its predecessor, Gilead, although Home has eventually found its own success by winning the Orange prize, 2009. Also it must be said it is a clever idea of Robinson to place the novel in the same time frame and setting as Gilead but Home can be read as novel that stands in its own right without prior knowledge of Gilead.

Robinson's story is a straight forward one about a family - in this case the Boughtons. It is a large family with all the siblings fully grown into adults. The key protagonists in this family story are the father Robert Boughton, his son Jack and daughter Glory. After a long absence from the family home, Glory returns home to look after her frail father. She is quickly followed by her brother Jack - a prodigal son figure. These two siblings' reunion with their father in the old, family, home provide the means for Robinson to explore, in the main, the dynamics of family life and the impact of memories of the past on the present. Robinson's themes are manifold but ultimately Christian based. It could be said that through the Boughton family, Robinson explores issues about love, forgiveness, humility, faith and Christian mercy. All this is shot through by means of the third person narration seen mainly from the perspective of Glory.

Home is not a rip-roaring yarn of a novel. Anyone expecting such a read will be disappointed. Instead, it is a very slow paced, deeply considered and in places moving novel. Its prose is pared down to present a language that on the surface is deceptively straight forward but with careful reading is powerful in its message. For me its power lies in the sense that whether or not one believes in its Christian outlook and morality, this is a novel that teaches us how to be good and humble. Robinson's examination and exploration of the minuteness of human behaviour and interaction is extraordinary in its revelations. Yet despite my obvious admiration for Robinson's style and the issues she deals with, it has to be said that the exploration and narration of the relationship between Jack and Glory is at time repetitive and tedious.

It could be said that Home does not wear its themes on its sleeve. It delivers its themes quietly and subtly. As a result one could easily miss some of the big ideas explored in the novel. For example as she conveys a Christian morality Robinson is neither preachy nor dogmatic. She quietly and carefully explores the question of the negro treatment in the US in the context of Christianity; she examines the Christian concept of grace; she reasonably asks us to consider predestination; and the idea of how some biblical punishment is said to manifest itself - namely the sins of the father being visited upon the child.

Robinson uses the relationship between Jack, Glory and their father to examine a very down to earth and basic question - that is what makes a family tick. No doubt that in this case it is the present or absent of the prodigal figure, Jack. Robinson tells us: "It was amazing her whole life long that house was either where Jack might not be or where he was not. Why did he leave? Where had he gone? ... They were so afraid they would lose him, and they had lost him, and that was the story of their family, no matter how warm and faithful and robust it might have appeared to the outside world"

Oh the burdens of the past and the values inbred in us! The past misdeeds, sins if you prefer, is what plague both Jack and Glory. Their return to home to Gilead is a means of atonement. What's played out in the novel is a form of confessional repentance between Jack and Glory. But these two troubled siblings are just symbolic of other lost and guilty souls who like Jack have found their home to be the seat of what has shaped them. The significance of the symbolism here is that Robinson in her own quiet and subtle way suggests that Jack's and Glory's condition is to be found in many adult human beings. The problem may not be a conflict of Christian values and worldly human misdeeds but nonetheless in some shape or form at some time in our lives we experience the angst ridden conflict of Jack and Glory.

From time to time one goes through periods of reading dull and over praised novels at such times one's willingness and patience to plough through such novels are tested. By contrast it is a delightful pleasure to pick up and read a novel such as Home - suddenly one's faith in the novel to deliver something touching and worthwhile is restored.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not quite there, 10 July 2010
By 
Catherine Murphy "drcath" (Norway) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Home (Paperback)
Jack Broughton, prodigal son, has returned to the town of Gilead, to attempt to make peace with his father and sister Glory.

In theory, this book should work the same magic as its predecessor - the telling of a man's life in prose so gentle and limpid, that it's like watching a paper flower unfold in water, one petal at a time. But this time the magic is lost. Where Gilead allowed John Ames to tell his own story, so we were able to immerse ourselves in his world view, to let him seep into our consciousness like ink, Jack Broughton's tale is told from the outside, mainly by his sister Glory. The man's a cipher anyway - a drunk, a drifter, a serial disappointer of his father - so keeping us outside him makes the whole thing an exercise in the same bafflement Jack's relatives feel about his inability to make anything of his life. In Gilead, the spaces Robinson created with her prose were big enough for the reader to insert their own conclusions, but not so large we lost the sense of what the story was about. In Home, The gaps are so large that making the jump requires an effort too large to be pleasant. Instead of being carried along, I felt becalmed in the unhappy swamps of Jack Broughton's failures, a place I really didn't want to spend much time in.

It's telling that the gap between Robinson's first book - Good Housekeeping - and Gilead, was twenty four years. Then after the hysterical success of Gilead, Home appears after a gestation of only two years. The pressure on Robinson to repeat the trick of Gilead must have been immense. What a pity, because she is capable of real art, but art takes time and patience to achieve and it doesn't look like she was allowed enough of either.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The hardest forgiveness is to forgive oneself, 14 Aug 2009
By 
Ralph Blumenau (London United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Home (Paperback)
The characters are so well drawn:

The Reverend Boughton: a frail, patriarchal, prayerful old widower; devout, meaning to live and love like a Christian (though he shows no Christian concern for the black civil rights movement). Forgiving, of course, is not forgetting.

His daughter Glory: his 38 year old daughter and the youngest of his eight children, who, several months before the book opens, has come home - the old home which has never changed - to Gilead (Iowa) to look after him in his last days. Her life has been unfulfilled, and, though she loves him and does her best to see he is not upset, it is not fulfilled by her coming to look after him now.

His son Jack, a fascinating character: the black sheep ; had felt an outsider in the family ever since childhood; his delinquency impulsive rather than wicked; ever polite; as a child always ready to apologize for his misdeeds but always indulging in new ones; had fathered an illegitimate child; had then disappeared for twenty years, to the grief of his father who never failed to love him or to worry about his soul. Now the Prodigal Son suddenly returns, and the old father, always ready to forgive, shows more joy for the stray sheep that has returned than for the Martha-like devotion of his daughter. (The book abounds in biblical echoes.) He asks no questions of what Jack has been up to these twenty years (but imagines the worst), and Glory dares not ask either. And has he come back, battered by the storms of his life, to seek a refuge? Or out of nostalgia for the childhood home? Or trying to make reparation? Or out of concern for his old father? Or seeking forgiveness?

From childhood onwards Glory has always looked for Jack's approval. He had casually patted her on the head, no more. Now he is polite to her, but she feels no warmth; initially she resents the way he has `taken over the house', feels taken for granted by her father, her life more unfulfilled than ever. But then the relationship between her and Jack becomes deeper, more intimate, if edgy at first: both try elaborately not to touch on raw places, but both unintentionally (or with subconscious intention?) fail in this: even a smile or a pause are taken by the other as unspoken comments. But then slowly, slowly, the intimacy between brother and sister deepens, becomes warmer. Jack comes to trust her - not wholly, but more than he trusts anyone else; and she feels rewarded by that. They dare gradually to reveal to each other something of what they have suffered, of what they have done and of what they have had done to them. But there are still things neither of them will talk about, and the reader will only ever have intimations, but no precise details, about them.

Both Glory and her father are terrified - Glory at first as much on her father's behalf as on her own - that if they upset Jack, he will disappear again; and if he is out the house for a few hours, they begin to worry.

Jack, always doubting his welcome despite the reassurances from his father and his sister, knows that all their worries mean that they have never forgotten earlier escapades; and the people of Gilead don't seem to have forgotten either - especially not the Reverend Ames, the other old clergyman in the village, a friend of the Reverend Boughton and a sterner version of him.

As it is, Jack feels the shame of what he has done in the past, which all the forgiveness of his father and the assurances of his sister cannot remove - a shame which makes it so hard for him to stay in Gilead. In any case, the father's forgiveness is not as straightforward as it appears: it takes several forms: blaming himself for having in some way failed his son; clearly troubled in his soul about the sins that Jack might have committed during his long absence; praying for his salvation; in the end losing the strength to conceal his hurt - these are not so much balm as pain for Jack.

The whole book crackles with tension. Always one fears that something terrible will happen. It is full of grief and suffering, but also suffused with love and with loving concern; and it is profound, subtle, and infinitely moving.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Home Is Where The Heart Is, 8 May 2013
By 
prisrob "pris," (New England USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Home (Paperback)
All of us at some point find a book that we find so eloquently written that we wish it would not end. 'Home' is that book for me. The characters are so rich and full and so like people I know.

The Prodigal Son, Jack, returns home. He left Gilead 20 some odd years ago after a life full of ne'er do well tricks and thievery. This time he had impregnated a young farm girl and left her to fend for herself. His sister Glory, is 38 and returns home to care for her Papa, Rev Broughton. She and Jack are two of the eight children in the family. Glory returns after a dalliance with a man whom she found to be married and who borrowed much of her savings. She returns home because of duty and love but she does not return home willingly. She is the only child it seems who can care for Papa. He has had a stroke and needs his family. His wife had died years ago.

Glory and her father fared well, a daily life of chores and caring, boring really. Into this life comes Jack, looking or running from what we are not sure. This is a family who keeps things to themselves. Papa is a man of great moral value, a retired Presbyterian minister. His closest friend is Rev Ames the Congregational minister. Both are in their 70's now. Jack and Glory slowly start to talk, neither divulges much at first. Glory had always loved Jack, but as the youngest she felt she did count for much. Jack came home disheveled and drunk. The last 20 years have been filled with pain, love and dysfunction. He came home wondering if he could turn his life around. His question to both Rev Ames and Rev Broughton centered on whether he was predestined to go to hell. It is only Lila, Rev Ames wife who finally tells him, that yes, people can change. Jack's life is filled with disappointment, he loves a woman named Della, but his letters to St Louis are returned to sender without being opened. His life seems aimless, no job, no future, drowning his sorrows in alcohol. Glory shows him love, respect and caring. But to Jack that is not enough. He comes home to help care for his father, but he has always felt estranged from his family, never a part of it. He always came in the back door not the front. He tries desperately to become one of the family,and he is welcomed by his sister, father and his brother, Teddy, who stops in for a visit. But, to Jack, it is never enough.

Religion plays a large part in this book. There is kindness and generosity in the town and family. Forgiveness from Rev Broughton, who has always felt that he failed his son. And, Jack feels he has failed everyone. Certainly, alcohol has played its part but that is not all of it. We try to piece everything together. The novel is one of friendship, family and aging. And, at the heart of it all is love. 'Home is where the heart is'.

Recommended. prisrob 05-08-13
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Simply sad, 1 May 2012
By 
Blue in Washington "Barry Ballow" (Washington, DC United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Home (Paperback)
Marilynne Robinson's "Home" is hard to describe, but I'd say that it is more about emotional impact on the reader than enjoyment of story. The general theme of the prodigal's return is at the heart of the book. In this case though, the prodigal, though beloved by his family, is one of life's lost souls who cannot be redeemed completely.

It's brave of author Robinson to create characters that ultimately do not triumph. Redemption is usually a favored theme for readers and here they must settle for forbearance or endurance, with no hint of something better in the future. For the prodigal son, Jack Broughton, the author offers no hope of redemption or happiness.

Whether you enjoy this story or not, you can't help but be impressed by the spare beauty of Robinson's language that makes the scenes in an Iowa farmhouse come alive without embellishment or artifice.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Subtle, complex, 6 Nov 2011
This review is from: Home (Paperback)
How do you forgive someone who is broken but not exactly repentant? How can the broken forgive those who brought them up in such rigid religious ways that much can never be spoken of? And how can those who never rebelled come to terms with their quiet unfulfilled lives? These are the questions that drive this apparently innocuous book into the complexities of love and the depths of family pain. There are no simple answers here but such intense insight. It took ages to get into but truly was worth it.
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Home by Marilynne Robinson (Paperback - 16 April 2009)
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