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Book 19

  1. Grossmith, George & Weedon — The Diary of a Nobody (166 pages)
  2. McCarthy, Cormac — Blood Meridian (334 pages)
  3. Moore, Alan & Dave Gibbons — Watchmen (399 pages)
  4. Moore, Christopher — Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal (507 pages)
  5. Murger, Henri — The Bohemians of the Latin Quarter (381 pages)
  6. Walk with Me: A Lenten Journey of Prayer for 2009 (98 pages)
  7. Douglas, Lloyd C. — The Robe (438 pages)
  8. Robinson, Marilynne — Gilead (281 pages)
  9. Jerome, Jerome K. — Three Men in a Boat (182 pages)
  10. Satrapi, Marjane — Persepolis (343 pages)
  11. Dodge, Jim — Fup (121 pages)
  12. Bauby, Jean-Dominique — The Diving-Bell and the Butterfly (114 pages)
  13. Fleming, Ian — Casino Royale (219 pages)
  14. Blake, Quentin — Clown (30 pages)
  15. Weigel, George — The Courage To Be Catholic (249 pages)
  16. Ishiguro, Kazuo — The Remains of the Day (255 pages)
  17. Orwell, George — Animal Farm (125 pages)
  18. Garner, James Finn — Politically Correct Bedtime Stories (81 pages)
  19. Robinson, Marilynne — Home (339 pages)

Page count: 4662.

When I wrote my review of Gilead a couple of months ago, I commented:

“Marilynne Robinson has since published a third novel, Home. The central character of Home is one of the main characters of Gilead. I don't know, though, if Home is a sequel or meant to give another perspective on events recounted in Gilead.”
I don't think it is a spoiler to say that the latter is the case: Home covers essentially the same time frame and characters as Gilead.

However, I was mistaken in assuming that the central character of Home was Jack, who I alluded to above as one of the main characters of Gilead. Robinson must have felt (and if so, I think her instincts were spot on) that to make Jack the central character would have robbed him of the mystery that makes his character so compelling.

Instead, as Gilead was the story of John Ames, the aging and kindly reverend who chronicles his personal history, the town's, and his relationship to the people around him in a letter to his young son, Home is the story of Glory, Jack's little sister, who like Jack returns home in middle age seeking refuge from personal failure elsewhere. In both novels, then, Jack serves as a lightning rod of sorts, drawing the reader in and giving the story focus, and as a foil against which Reverend Ames and Glory's lives can be compared and contrasted.

Home is a thoughtfully constructed novel and, alongside Gilead, makes a fascinating study of perspective. We are forced to re-examine our assumptions or interpretations of certain common events. It's a bit of an eye-opener how differently the various characters are perceived depending on the narrator.

Both novels are also imbued with a deep preoccupation with religious principles and the main characters' struggles with them. Ames, the Congregationalist minister, gives a lot of thought to ideas of renewal, baptism, and redemption. Glory, Jack, and their father, the retired Presbyterian minister, expend a lot of energy on questions of faith and forgiveness, and the state of the soul. Both novels, stemming from very different circumstances, closely examine the roles and implications of family, community, and other social constructs and relationships.

Both are extremely profound and moving novels. There's so much to ponder in each that I haven't even come close to scratching the surface or to doing them justice in these reviews. I urge you to read them both. I don't suppose the order really matters, though I'm glad I read Gilead first. Doing so gave me a sense of dramatic irony as I read Home. It also gave the conclusion of Home a sense of inevitability, even predictability, which was oddly satisfying. I would have had it no other way.


( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 25th, 2009 04:15 am (UTC)
Faith and Forgiveness
Only Christians worry about forgiveness. I was raised a Christian but eventually realized that the feeling of guilt all Christians share was imposed by an authority I could no longer accept. Lacking a need for forgiveness freed me and led me to question all forms of authority.

Faith is something else.
Jul. 25th, 2009 09:57 am (UTC)
Re: Faith and Forgiveness
No, you are mistaken, the concept of forgiveness predates Christianity and is common to most if not all cultures. Yes, forgiveness is often linked to one or another religion, but since most cultures developed some sort of religious or spiritual life that seems beside the point.

Anyway, as all the characters in these books are either Christian or were brought up Christian and couldn't accept the faith, your comment doesn't seem relevant to the post.
Jul. 25th, 2009 05:04 pm (UTC)
Re: Faith and Forgiveness
I expressed it badly. I should have said, "Christians are uniquely preoccupied with forgiveness for an Original Sin that I no longer find relevant" for my initial sentence. Yes, other belief systems recognize forgiveness as a component of life. Psychologists and psychiatrists tell us that we must forgive ourselves in order to become mentally whole. However, only Christians count forgiveness as a required element for entry to heaven.

And, as I pointed out, like some of the characters in these books, I was raised as a Christian and then found I couldn't accept Christianity's core beliefs. For me, one of the principal sticking points is the concept of sin and forgiveness.
Jul. 25th, 2009 05:22 pm (UTC)
Re: Faith and Forgiveness
Okay, original sin, as far as I know, is a Christian concept. But yes, other belief systems *and cultures* (this isn't necessarily tied to religion) came up with the concept of forgiveness and, if you prefer, transgressions on their own.

only Christians count forgiveness as a required element for entry to heaven

Interestingly enough, this isn't a principle of any Christian religious sect that I'm aware. Heaven is not merely some sort of reward for whoever passes all the entrance examinations! This is clearly a misunderstanding of yours. If you're interested in clearing up your misconceptions on the subject, an accessible starting point is CS Lewis. I know you've read The Screwtape Letters, but maybe one of his other books would prove more instructive. But to jump straight to the crux (no pun intended) of your misunderstanding, one of the Christian core beliefs is that our sins (original, past, present, and future) were forgiven through Christ's sacrifice on the cross.

But again, I need to reiterate, this discussion is not relevant to a discussion of these books. These are not books about religion, rather about family relationships (in which, yes, faith plays a role, as do a number of other things). And this is an unlocked post which people from other non-LJ communities (namely LibraryThing) might be visiting to find information about these books, and I would very much like to keep discussion relevant to the books and not wander into asides about our conceptions of Christianity and why we feel it is or isn't right for us.
Jul. 25th, 2009 11:42 pm (UTC)
Re: Faith and Forgiveness
I was simply trying to point out the parallel between my life and the characters in the book as you described them.

We can discuss the differences between my beliefs and any official creed of Christianity elsewhere and at another time.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )

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