“Marilynne Robinson Returns to Gilead”: I review “Lila”

“Marilynne Robinson Returns to Gilead”: I review “Lila” February 23, 2015

at AmCon–I think this piece turned out well:

Ten years ago Marilynne Robinson began telling us the story of Gilead, Iowa, a tiny town surrounded by fields and farms. A droplet of water in which the whole world is reflected.

She began with Gilead, a novel in the form of a long letter written from the dying John Ames to his young son. Ames situates the town in its historical context, showing how this apparently all-white enclave nonetheless falls under the shadow of racism, from the Civil War to the civil rights movement. And Ames writes the letter in part because he’s afraid that the newcomer in town—Jack Boughton, his best friend’s son, who grew up in Gilead but has since always been a stranger to it—has designs on his young wife, Lila. She too was a stranger in town once, and some part of her will always be a stranger. John Ames worries that Jack’s estranged heart calls to and quickens her estrangement.

John Ames is a preacher. His world is the historical world, the world of pressure and circumstance and coercion—the world of fears, insecurities, theological argument. But it’s also the world of conversion, change, and the freedom of baptism. The world of history—inescapable and exhausting family history, as well as national history—is sometimes broken open, and another world can be glimpsed in the cracks.


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