Robinson, Marilynne. Lila
Booklist Reviews 2014 August #1
*Starred Review* We catch glimpses of the Reverend John Ames' much younger second wife, Lila, in Robinson's Pulitzer Prize–winning novel, Gilead (2004), the first in a deeply reflective saga set in a small Iowa town, the second volume of which is Home (2008). We now learn Lila's astonishing story, which begins with a thunderbolt opening scene, in which an abused little girl is swept up by a strange young woman called Doll. The two roam the countryside as itinerant workers, settling down just long enough for Lila to learn to read and write. As life grows even more harrowing during the Great Depression, and Doll's dangerous secrets catch up to her, capable and strong Lila fends for herself, ultimately arriving in Gilead. The wanderer and the minister embark on a wondrously unlikely and fitful courtship as Lila asks confounding questions about existence, belief, trust, and justice. Bringing the land to ravishing life, season by season, Robinson sets the tentative lovers' profoundly involving emotional and metaphysical struggles within both the singing web of nature and the indelible stories of the Bible. Robinson has created a tour de force, an unforgettably dramatic odyssey, a passionate and learned moral and spiritual inquiry, a paean to the earth, and a witty and transcendent love story—all within a refulgent and resounding novel so beautifully precise and cadenced it wholly transfixes and transforms us. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Robinson's readers will be primed for the well-promoted third title in her cherished Iowa saga as the author tours the country. Copyright 2014 Booklist Reviews.
LJ Reviews 2014 May #1
Stepping out of the rain into a church in Gilead, IA, Lila enters a whole new life; eventually, she marries the minister, John Ames. First, though, we learn that she was a neglected toddler pulled to safety by a young drifter named Doll, with whom she shared a strong sisterly bond as they wandered from town to town. Pulitzer Prize winner Robinson continues her Gilead story.[Page 56]. (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
LJ Reviews 2014 August #1
This gentle novel revisits characters in the town of Gilead, IA, the setting of Robinson's earlier novels Home and the Pulitzer Prize-winning Gilead. Whereas Gilead focused on elderly minister John Ames's writing a letter to his seven-year-old son, this new work steps back nearly a decade to explain how John came to meet and marry second wife Lila, with the focus on her past rather than his. A homeless orphan, Lila led an itinerant life under the care of a woman named Doll. It was a life full of hardship, but Doll's love sustained the child. When Lila meets John, their courtship and marriage develop through discussions about the Bible and God, as Lila struggles to reconcile her own suffering with the love and kindness of her husband and his faith. It also proves difficult for her to settle down and to fit in among people whose lives are so different from the one she has lived. As with Gilead, this book is full of ruminations about faith, and it flows in a single gush without chapters. VERDICT While some readers may yearn for more action and structure, this is a lovely and touching story that grapples with the universal question of how God can allow his children to suffer. Recommended for fans of Robinson as well as those who enjoyed Elizabeth Strout's Olive Kitteridge, another exploration of pain and loneliness set against the backdrop of a small town. [See Prepub Alert, 4/7/14.]—Evelyn Beck, Piedmont Technical Coll., Greenwood, SC[Page 89]. (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
PW Reviews 2014 May #2
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.)[Page ]. Copyright 2014 PWxyz LLC