By Marilynne Robinson
336 pages; Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Marilynne Robinson's fascinating career has pinned our imaginations inside several memory-cramped family houses. In her aptly titled Home (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), Jack Boughton, the prodigal son of an aging paterfamilias, returns after 20 years to live with his sister Glory and their dying father. Those who loved Robinson's Pulitzer-winning novel, Gilead, will notice immediately that Home is set in the same Iowa town, and that the Reverend John Ames, the center of that story, lingers notably along the borders of this one. He is the elder Boughton's closest friend; Jack is his namesake, and Jack's tattered soul will become his to battle and repair. As claustrophobic as Robinson's situations can be, her prose is our flight out, a keen instrument of vision and transcendence. The book is told from the perspective of Glory, so this language is given a compelling personal voice. Through her we are able to see Jack: "the one true worldling in the whole tribe of Boughtons ... standing there in the sunlight with the wind hushing in the dusty lilacs of their childhood. ... He looked older in sunlight." While the men work out their splintery emotions, the wisdom and grace of the book resides in the quiet voice of the woman who loves them.