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by Marilynne Robinson
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Farrar Straus & Giroux, 2008 (2008)
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* * *   Reviewed by Barbara Lingens

Since Marilynne Robinson's Gilead won a Pulitzer Prize, her newest novel, Home, has generated lots of interest. Home is set in the same place as Gilead, a small Iowa town, with many of the same characters, including the two aged Reverends Broughton and Ames. This time, however, not only does the ne'er-do-well brother Jack appear at the Broughton's, but also his sister Glory. She arrives first to tend her father.

Being at home is painful to both siblings, for similar and different reasons, as they come to find out. For Glory, it seems to be a kind of failure. All her other brothers and sisters, besides Jack, have managed to become independent, with busy lives to live. Since Jack is a more nuanced character, coming home is a success and a failure and everything else in between for him. But Jack, though fragile mentally, is able to help with chores that would be hard for Glory, and Glory, who is well grounded, finds it possible to help Jack in ways unexpected to him.

With luminous writing, Ms. Robinson continues to beautifully portray a specific time and place with well-meaning but pious folk, and to help both Glory and Jack answer the question, 'What does it mean to come home?' For me, it was hard to stop trying to match the two novels. They are independent, to be sure, but since the scene and characters were so familiar, it was too easy to think about one while reading the other. On balance, I thought Home not as effective as Gilead, though still very worthwhile to read.

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