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Time Out Ratings

<strong>Rating: </strong>5/5

Marilynne Robinson’s latest novel, Home, is a stunning reinterpretation of the parable of the prodigal son. The book is a companion to Robinson’s Pulitzer-winning Gilead—a novel written as a letter from an aging preacher, John Ames, to his young son—but focuses instead on a different family in the same rural Iowa town. While Gilead is about the importance of family dialogue, Home is about the repercussions of its absence.

Home is set in the household of Ames’s best friend, Robert Boughton, a dying Presbyterian minister and widowed father of eight. The narrative revolves around Boughton’s pious daughter, Glory, who cares for the ailing patriarch, and begins with the return of Boughton’s beloved son, Jack, who left town with a reputation as a thief and a drunk 20 years earlier. Robinson portrays each character with agonizing restraint, hinting at their inner lives without ever overexposing them. Even the most obvious questions—Jack’s mysterious whereabouts, the source of Glory’s silent heartache—languish unspoken as the the characters tiptoe around one another like strangers, secretly yearning for one another’s validation. This tacit tension allows the book’s drama to unfold gradually, as Jack and Glory’s mounting sense of alienation from their home drives the plot.

Robinson’s writing is subtle yet engrossing. She takes a timeless story and turns it into an achingly personal odyssey. With a surprisingly simple setup, Home examines the ways we define ourselves through and against our family. In the absence of a reliable narrator, the reader is forced to derive meaning from the unspoken implications of each sentence and silence—an exercise in psychological interpretation that makes the book challenging but, in the end, extremely rewarding.

Buy Home now on BN.com

By Marilynne Robinson. FSG, $25.

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