I enjoyed this book which is set in the same time and place as one of Marilynne Robinson’s other novels, Gilead, but within a different family. In Gilead we saw life from the perspective of Reverend Ames, an elderly man writing a letter for his young son to read after his death. Here we follow the Boughton family, where the father and Ames are best friends.
We see the Boughton’s life through Glory, a middle aged daughter who has moved back home after being led on and then abandoned by her long term fiancé. Having moved home she cares for her elderly father, who used to be minister of a local church but is now dying.
Her brother Jack also returns home shortly after her, after 20 years away from them. The black sheep of the family, he was often in trouble but now comes back seeming to want to make amends and lead a better life. He is missing the woman he loves, who has gone back to her family too after some unrevealed trouble with him.
He and Glory renew their relationship which brings her happiness. Although Glory is wary he will disappear from them again, she is loving and caring towards him, trying hard not to do anything to upset him.
Jack is back home looking for salvation. He both wants to make amends with his father, who he let down terribly by avoiding all contact for 20 years, not even coming to his mother’s funeral, and is also looking to save his soul. He knows the bible well and wants faith but is frustrated in not having it. Reading it, you have great pity for him, as he is clearly self-aware and intelligent and wants help, but is unable to receive it.
The novel is an enjoyable read. Especially since having previously read Gilead, we now see parts of the story from another perspective, and sometimes learn that the motives of the characters were different than Ames judged from what he saw. But even on its own merits this is an engaging and moving story, well written and imagined by Robinson. You come to greatly care for the characters and share in the happiness and sadness of their lives.