Friday, November 28, 2014

Lila: A Novel, by Marilynne Robinson (book review)

Lila: A Novel, by Marilynne Robinson. Farrar, Straus and Giroux (October 7, 2014)

If you've read Marilynne Robinson's earlier books Gilead and Home, you know who Lila Ames is; she's the second wife of an elderly, widowed, small-town preacher named John Ames. Gilead is his own memoir, written to their young son who will, presumably, read it when he's older. Home concerns John Ames' friend Boughton and his family. And this book is Lila's own story: where she came from, how she wandered into the old man's church, risked trusting him, and became an inseparable part of his life.

Without trying to give away too much, Lila had a very rough beginning, an alienated upbringing, and a mostly-horrible young adulthood; it's a miracle that she survived at all.  Soon after her arrival in the town of Gilead, somewhere around 1950, she "borrows" a Bible from John Ames' church, and begins reading from the book of Ezekiel: "In the day thou wast born thy navel was not cut, neither wast thou washed in water to cleanse thee...No eye pitied thee." As she explores Ezekiel and, later, the book of Job, she discovers more images of loss and abandonment, and then redemption, large ideas that resonate with her own experiences. By the end of the book, life for Lila and "the Reverend" has changed in many ways; "she could make a pretty good meat loaf now and a decent potato salad." They have settled into their own version of "normal," which includes their new baby. But many questions remain, both spiritual and everyday ones; there are things that will never be known for sure, including the fate of the woman who raised Lila.  The time they will have together is also uncertain. Does it matter what can or can't be known, as long as love and grace are there? 
Recommended for those interested in thoughtful fiction by Christian writers. 

1 comment:

Jeanne said...

I hope to read Lila during my Christmas break. It sounds wonderful.