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Lila
by Marilynne Robinson


Overview -

Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award
National Book Award Finalist
A new American classic from the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of "Gilead "and "Housekeeping"
""
Marilynne Robinson, one of the greatest novelists of our time, returns to the town of Gilead in an unforgettable story of a girlhood lived on the fringes of society in fear, awe, and wonder.  Read more...


 
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More About Lila by Marilynne Robinson
 
 
 
Overview

Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award
National Book Award Finalist
A new American classic from the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of "Gilead "and "Housekeeping"
""
Marilynne Robinson, one of the greatest novelists of our time, returns to the town of Gilead in an unforgettable story of a girlhood lived on the fringes of society in fear, awe, and wonder.
Lila, homeless and alone after years of roaming the countryside, steps inside a small-town Iowa church-the only available shelter from the rain-and ignites a romance and a debate that will reshape her life. She becomes the wife of a minister, John Ames, and begins a new existence while trying to make sense of the life that preceded her newfound security.
Neglected as a toddler, Lila was rescued by Doll, a canny young drifter, and brought up by her in a hardscrabble childhood. Together they crafted a life on the run, living hand to mouth with nothing but their sisterly bond and a ragged blade to protect them. Despite bouts of petty violence and moments of desperation, their shared life was laced with moments of joy and love. When Lila arrives in Gilead, she struggles to reconcile the life of her makeshift family and their days of hardship with the gentle Christian worldview of her husband which paradoxically judges those she loves.
Revisiting the beloved characters and setting of Robinson's Pulitzer Prize-winning "Gilead "and "Home," a National Book Award finalist, "Lila" is a moving expression of the mysteries of existence that is destined to become an American classic.

 
Details
  • ISBN-13: 9780374187613
  • ISBN-10: 0374187614
  • Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux
  • Publish Date: October 2014
  • Page Count: 261

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Publishers Weekly Reviews

Publishers Weekly® Reviews

  • Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
  • Review Date: 2014-05-12
  • Reviewer: Staff

This third of three novels set in the fictional plains town of Gilead, Iowa, is a masterpiece of prose in the service of the moral seriousness that distinguishes Robinson’s work. This time the narrative focuses on Lila, the young bride of elderly Reverend Ames, first met in Gilead. Rescued as a toddler from abusive caretakers by a rough but kind drifter named Doll, raised with love but enduring the hard existence of a field worker, and later, in a St. Louis whorehouse, Lila is a superb creation. Largely uneducated, almost feral, Lila has a thirst for stability and knowledge. As she yearns to forget the terrible memories and shame of her past, Lila is hesitant to reveal them to her loving new husband. The courtship of the couple—John Ames: tentative, tender, shy, and awkward; Lila: naive, suspicious, wary, full of dread—will endure as a classic set piece of character revelation, during which two achingly lonely people discover the comfort of marital love. Threaded through the narrative are John Ames’s troubled reflections that the doctrines of his Calvinist theology, including the belief that those who are not saved are destined for hell, are too harsh. Though she reads the Bible to gain knowledge, Lila resists its message, because it teaches that her beloved Doll will never gain the peace of heaven. Her questions stir up doubt in Ames’s already conflicted mind, and Robinson carefully crafts this provocative and deeply meaningful spiritual search for the meaning of existence. What brings the couple together is a joyous appreciation of the beauty of the natural world and the possibility of grace. The novel ends with the birth of their son, to whom Ames will leave his diary in Gilead. (Oct.)

 
BookPage Reviews

Making sense of home

This luminous novel is only Robinson’s fourth in a writing career that has spanned nearly as many decades—which makes each one of her works all the more precious.

In Lila, we revisit the Iowa town of Gilead, setting of the eponymous Pulitzer Prize-winning novel and of Home. This time, Robinson tells the story of a young woman who was neglected as a child and rescued by a kind-hearted, fiercely loyal drifter called Doll. Lila grows up traveling with Doll and a down-on-their-luck group who find work where they can along backcountry roads.

Lila is barely surviving when she lands in Gilead, seeking shelter from the rain in a church. She finds herself drawn to the local pastor, a soft-spoken man whom Robinson fans will recognize. But after a lifetime of abandonment, uncertainty and poverty, Lila wrestles with lingering mistrust of the world, and doubts her newfound security as the pastor’s wife and a mother-to-be.

“Even now, thinking of the man who called himself her husband, what if he turned away from her?” Robinson writes. “It would be nothing. What if the child was no child? There would be an evening and a morning. The quiet of the world was terrible to her, like mockery. She had hoped to put an end to these thoughts, but they returned to her, and she returned to them.”

As Lila begins to come to grips with her past, she must decide whether her future is in Gilead. She slowly begins to see what she can offer to her new family and her community, while honoring the transient family of her youth.

In her gorgeous, unadorned prose, Robinson returns to both a place (Gilead) and a theme (keeping faith in a world that can be unbearably harsh and beautiful) that have proven to be so fertile. Lila is a stunning and moving exploration of family and faith, and how to find one’s place in the world.

 

This article was originally published in the October 2014 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

 
Customer Reviews