Publisher and Publication Date: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 2014.
Audience: Readers who have loved the previous books written by Robinson-the Gilead books. Any reader who loves the beauty of a well told story.
The first two books in the Gilead series:
Gilead, published in 2004
Home, published in 2008
Lila won a National Book Critics Circle Award in 2015.
This is the first book I’ve read by Marilynne Robinson.
The book has been explained as a love story between Lila and John Ames. When I think of a love story, (a fictionalized film or book) I think about a romantic and sensual story. Lila is not that kind of love story. It is the story of a young woman who has spent her life wandering. She’s not had a permanent home. The book reflects on her early childhood, when a woman named Doll found Lila and began to care for her. Doll and Lila didn’t really have a home. But, Doll did the best she could in raising Lila. So, what kind of love story is Lila? It is a story of the kind of love that’s covered with grace. It’s the kind of love that’s covered in sacrifice-a sacrificial type love. Instead of explaining what the words grace and sacrifice mean, Robinson shows it through the two people in Lila’s life who have deeply loved her.
Robinson tells the story. This gives a broad view of what is happening, but I also know what Lila is thinking. I’m privy to her ponderings and perspective.
Lila is hardworking. She is comfortable in cleaning, laundry, and gardening. She’s comfortable covered in sweat and dirt. She is not comfortable with a life she’s never known. A life with a home and husband. A life where the people who live in a town see her as a person equal to them and not their hired laborer.
John is proud of Lila. They walk together and he introduces her to the people as his wife. He is gentle, thoughtful, and loving. He does not rush Lila. He sees her differently than she sees herself. He doesn’t worry about her past. He settles on who she is today, his lovely wife.
John shows Lila grace. Grace that is poured out on Lila. He is extravagant in his love and grace to Lila. And all the people in town see this pouring out of love and grace.
There is no denying the fact that John is a much older man and Lila is a young woman.
John is the town preacher. He is a respectable man. Lila has not had the “kind” of life that’s expected of a pastor’s wife. John loves Lila anyway.
I recently read that one of the things that destroys a marriage is unrealistic expectations. While reading Lila I didn’t see that the couple had unrealistic expectations. There is a calm resolve from John. He doesn’t worry about Lila. He is patient and kind. He shows Lila the fullness of love.
I’ve given a little more information about the book in the “My Thoughts” section of this review, because there are some things I want to point out.
1. Lila is a story that shares things about people and society. The town of Gilead is small, but it is a picture of the world. People judge people; and they place them in places they want them to be. For example, that person goes in the “bad” place, because they’ve committed a worse sin that other sins. That person goes in another place because they are a different color that I am. That person has a handicap so they need to go in that other place. And, that person needs to be placed in another place because they have different political beliefs than I do. We gravitate towards people who look like us and think like us and believe as we do. Those are the people we consider to be on our team! Lila doesn’t fit with any of the other people in Gilead. Yet, she stays. And, John and Lila marry. Two people unalike in many ways but love each other.
2. There are different types of love. Inherently we know this, but it’s good to be reminded. Real love is not just the romantic gushing and sensual thrill. Real love is seeing the person you love just as they are and you love them anyway. You love them when they are dirty and sweaty. You love them when you disagree. You love them when they are fearful and misunderstand certain things. You love them even when the people on your “team” don’t understand.
3. Doll is the parent figure who began caring for Lila. Doll took a chance on taking care of Lila. Doll’s heart was moved by this rascally dirty little girl. Doll and John have loved Lila sacrificially. They did the unthinkable. They went out of their comfort zone. They have loved Lila with reckless abandon, not counting the cost.
Lila is a moving story. It’s a story that leaves an imprint on the mind and heart. It’s a story that made me question the kind of love I give.
Publisher and Publication Date: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. January 15, 2019.
Genre: Nonfiction. Silence and solitude-understanding them.
Audience: Readers who want to understand how silence has been used in society. For example, punishment through the prison system.
Silence is a library book. While in the library I read the synopsis from the inside cover and was intrigued.
When I think about silence it reminds me of a state of solitude and stillness. This book is about a solitary form of silence or a disciplined silence like in a prison cell or monastery. Both places require silence, but are for different reasons. Both places of silence are doing so as a form of discipline. One form of discipline because the person has been punished. The other form of discipline as a way of spiritual discipline and practice.
In Silence, the first part of the book is a history of prisons in the western world. The history of Newgate (England), Eastern State Penitentiary, and Western State Penitentiary. The last two listed are located in Pennsylvania.
The later half of the book is silence as contemplative in a religious setting.
I’m an introvert and love quiet days at home. I love going the whole day without turning on the television or talking to anyone. I don’t want to do this everyday, but I enjoy those days when I can remain silent. I have friends and family who are uncomfortable and down right fearful of being in a quiet place. But what if I had to spend days, months, and years in this state?
When the book begins the life of Charles Williams is given. He was the first inmate at the Eastern State Penitentiary in 1829. He was an experiment in “silence” and solitary confinement for the penal system in America. Nothing is known about Williams after his release from prison. His two years of solitary confinement is used in the book as a strong illustration of what silence does for a prisoner.
Later in the book, women who were inmates in the Eastern State Penitentiary, punishment to women in the Colonial Era, and monastic women are examined.
Silence as contemplative is shown through the life of Thomas Merton. He was curious about the discipline of silence and drawn to becoming a Trappist monk at Our Lady of Gethsemani Abbey in Kentucky.
What I did not like about this book is how it is organized. Part one is the history of the prison system as it pertains to forms of discipline and punishment, principally “silence” or solitary confinement. However, in the second half of the book it goes back to the prison system, even though I’d thought it was going to only be about contemplative orders of solitariness.
And a secondary reason is I feel there is confusion about the words silence and solitary. I looked them up in the dictionary and there is a difference.
From Webster’s New World College Dictionary:
“Silence- The state or fact of keeping silent; a refraining from speech or from making noise.”
“Solitary-Living or being alone, without others; single; characterized by loneliness or lack of companions.”
A prisoner is silent in solitary confinement and disciplined by being set apart for a lone existence. Not his or her choice, but as a form of discipline and punishment.
A person in a monastic life is silent because they choose to be silent. They live and move among other people but remain silent. It is a form of discipline and teaching on their life.
What I like about the book is reading about a subject not talked about much. The world is noisy. It is even noisy in preoccupation with techie gadgets. To be still and silent is eerily different. But I like it!
A second reason I like the book is it causes me to think about my speech, how I am silent and why, and the importance and timing of words.
Publisher and Publication Date: Lake Union Publishing. February 12, 2019.
Genre: Historical Fiction.
Audience: Readers of World War I, historical fiction and romance.
Emily Bryce is a young woman who is yearning to be involved in the war effort. Her best friend Clarissa shares about her role in caring for the wounded, and this makes Emily more determined to become involved on the home front.
Emily’s brother, Freddie, died in the Battle of Ypres. Her parents are determined to keep Emily safe. Emily’s mother is determined to show Emily off to society.
Emily volunteers as a Land Girl. It is hard work. Her parents are shocked and appalled that their darling girl is doing manual labor. While on this new adventure, Emily meets an Aussie pilot on medical leave. She also finds a journal about medicinal arts. This journal changes her life. It also keeps her busy during the hard days ahead.
I didn’t feel an attachment to any of the characters. The story has an interesting plot, but I didn’t feel emotion that I should have about the main character at least. Emily’s had sad events in life, but I was not effected.
The part of the story I found most interesting was the journal Emily found with information about medicinal arts. So, it is not a person that held my interest, but a journal about medicinal arts. It shouldn’t be that way.
This is a serious story. Life and death occur, but I didn’t become swept up in it or feel it mattered.
I finished the story but am disappointed. This book did not work for me.