The Slow Walk Home

January 14, 2009 | No Comments

I suspect Scottishness is another name for predestination. It explains everything more or less,” remarks Glory to her wayward brother, Jack, in Marilynne Robinson’s Home, the companion novel to her award-winning Gilead. Glory is attempting to be wry, to disarm the simmering tension between her father, the Reverend Boughton, and her brother, whose only belief is perdition, who believes that his past misdemeanors and his alcoholism, are wounds both inevitable and incurable.  Robinson’s re-imagining of the story of the prodigal son is slow, slow, slow in the telling, and I found myself, despite admiring her prose, becoming riled by the plodding pace, by the Reverend’s passive-aggressive hypocrisy, by Glory’s acceptance of being ‘only’ a daughter, by Jack’s hyper-sensitvity. But perhaps that is exactly Robinson’s skill – her characters are so entirely human in their flaws, I often want to strangle them. Not all the critics agreed, but I think the ending is exquisite and revelatory, provided you are prepared to tramp the long, slow road to reach it.