Marilynne Robinson is one of the more famous modern novelists of our age. And considering this is only her fifth novel, she has had a remarkable career. The Gilead books are intertwined. They can be read alone or out of order. But they all have some relationship to John Ames. The elderly pastor of a small church in Gilead Iowa, the main subject of the first book of the series.
The second book, Home, is mostly about Robert Boughton’s family, John Ames’ best friend and fellow pastor in the same town. It is told from the perspective of Glory, the daughter who has returned home to care for her ailing father. But nothing in the Boughton family is not about Jack, named for John Ames, but a prodigal who finally returns for a visit.
I need to go back and reread Home. Of the three previous, it was my least favorite. Not because any of Robinson’s books are not well written, but because I love the story of grace that is more central to Lila and Gilead. The character of Jack is part of a story of grace, but one I have always been less interested in. Rev Boughton grieves and prays for his son. The town can see how Jack’s hurts and harms, not just himself, but everyone around him. It is not always that Jack intends to harm. Quite often, the harm comes through bad luck. But it is easy to blame Jack for his bad luck.