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Review |'Home,' by Marilynne Robinson

In this section from the eighteenth century, a reference to the intention behind "Home" and "Gilead", which do not co-exist in a relationship of temporal succession or topical priorities, but twist together like entangled cogwheels driving a singular storytelling engine. Much of what could be described in "Home" is the movement of a few figures - Gloory, her dad and her big old home, from galley to lounge, from backyard to veranda.

However, these daily facts of what glory calls "a complicated, common life" in Robinson's hands touch like containers of the horrible, the lofty, the wonderful. Whilst she devotes herself to sensuous detail with care and accuracy, the linguistic works that Robinson appreciates most are the kind of robust, daily abstraction that one could think about in the churches.

Born in Gilead at the end of the nineteenth centuary, Boughton and Ames were raised together, following their own forefathers into service there, clutching each other's neighboring twigs of the robust Puritan-treed. Boughton, whose ancestors came from Scotland shortly after the American Civil War, took care of Gilead's herd from the Presbyterians, while Ames, the grandchild of a Maine bourgeois abolisher, took care of the hearts of the locals of the Congregationalists.

Her confessions were divided (as Robinson wrote elsewhere) by a "doctrinal and Demographic customs", the two ministers serving each other as preaching theologians, fighters on the chessboard and religious advisers in good and evil days. "Gilead " is directed at him.) The dark ewe of Boughton's great breed - four young men and four young women - is John Ames Boughton, better known as Jack, who names his own dad "Sir" and keeps "Papa" as his nickname for Ames in Sardony.

"Gilead " and "Home" are in part twin profiles of these pleasing, older male priests, whose indications of overarching death are disturbed by Jack's 20 year old coming-home. Part of the attraction of the book certainly resides in the nostalgia Robinson gave to the small city of Middle West half a hundred years ago.

The comfort of "Home", the balsam in "Gilead", is genuine enough. However, even if Robinson's profound and dissentimental love for Ames and Boughton is as obvious as their dedication to each other, their judgement of them and what they portray is harsh and harsh. This grief is still visible in the 43-year-old Jack, who is returning from his long absence with the careful attitude of a "stranger who is not sure of his welcome".

" But his obvious alcoholics may just be the symptoms of a deep suffering that calls us to think theologically. In" Gilead", when Jack asked his dad and Ames about the always delicate subject of destiny, Ames thought the younger man would mock them.

In " Home", the sequence is repeated, whereby Gory anticipates an unending and futile teaching debate: "Ames and her dad had often argued about it, her dad claimed the complete satisfaction of mercy with something like cruelty, while Gordon claimed that with a clemency that his boyfriend found annoying that the severity of sins could not be denied.

If he asks: "Do you believe that some men are deliberately and irrevocably sent to damnation", it is clear to the readers, if not to his fathers, that he has a certain case - his own - in his head. There is nothing in the novel that excludes the likelihood that Jack could be outside God's mercy, and that this mental state, as well as any psychologic dispositions, could account for his solitude and alienation in the womb of such a warmer, consecrated group.

"Home " and "Gilead" are wonderful stories about families, friendships and age. Robinson released "The Death of Adam" ten years ago, a compilation of refreshingly contrasting essay articles, the joint theme of which was the defence of the Puritan spiritual and moral traditions. Contrary to recent historical writing - and in the tooth of a strong literary trend dating back to the end of the nineteenth cent - she protected John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards and their offspring against the customary accusations of intolerance, prudishness and thrift.

Robinson saw the politics and morals of this precious, misconstrued narrative as the evolutionary motion whose perks included the establishment of cities such as Gilead, a kind of guardship for fighters against the expansion of enslavement in Kansas. He is pervaded by this story - his grandpa was a fanatic in ancient, just anti-slavery - and Jack Boughton is also conscious of it.

"Back home in Iowa, the glowing glittering stellar of radicalism," he says and quotes Ulysses S. Grant. There' s a remorseful sense of humor, as in almost everything Jack says, but there is something else: a sorrowful realization of how far the city has gone from its founder-ghost. Jack's refusal to find a clue - and the incapacity of Ames or Boughton to comprehend that it has been forgotten - is annoying and ultimately heart-rending.

Those who come to "Home" after "Gilead" will know that Jack during his 20-year old exil hit a dark girl and had a baby with her. Part of his homecoming to Gilead is an exploratory quest, an effort to find out if the city could be a good home for a racially diverse group.

1956 there are "no coloured in Gilead", but it wasn't always like that. After Ames burnt her cathedral, although she recalls the fire as "a little sturgeon fire" that occurred a long time ago. Ames'"shabby old town" is a place where a dark folk is scared to be out at sunset.

This ugliness complicates the aesthetics of Home, but the way Robinson imbeds it into the novel is part of what makes it so pretty. This is a book that is ruthless in its recognition of sins and does not diminish in its faith in the possibilities of mercy. That'?s a weird old book.

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