Literary Criticism and Significance

Marilynne’s Robinson’s Home is a novel about the trials of life, family, and going home again. This is Robinson’s third work of fiction since the publication of her first novel, Housekeeping, in 1980. The story takes place in the 1950s in rural Iowa, in the fictional town of Gilead. Homeand Robinson’s 2005 Pulitzer Prize winning second novel, Gilead, are parallel, overlapping stories told from different perspectives. While Gilead is told through letters written by the aging John Ames to his son, home is a third-person narrative told from the perspective of Glory Boughton.

New York Times best seller, Robinson’s Home has won the 2009 Orange Prize for women writers and was named best book of the year by The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and the San Francisco ChronicleHome was also a National Book Award finalist.

Although a few reviewers have decried Home as boring because of the lack of action in the plot, the majority of the book reviews have been positive. In the New York Times Sunday Book Review, A. O. Scott describes Robinson’s novel as, “unsparing in its acknowledgment of sin and unstinting in its belief in the possibility of grace. It is at once hard and forgiving, bitter and joyful, fanatical and serene.”

For most, Home is a novel significant in Robinson’s skill as a writer. In the article "Acts of Apostles," Anthony Domestico admires Robinson’s ability to put human pain into such beautiful terms. Domestico states, “The novel's second half is particularly breathtaking. As the old man sickens and Jack's personal life crumbles, there are passages that surpass anything in contemporary American literature.” Robinson appears to be a master writer when it comes to describing the ordinary. In her review of Home, Salley Vickers claims, "Home is even finer than its predecessor. I would give teeth to have written it.”

Many reviewers express admiration for Robinson’s ability to tackle the spiritual, while still appealing to the secular reader. Although the novel’s core is the exploration of Christian ideals and tenets, the reader need not be particularly religious to appreciate the complexity. Vickers also compliments Robinson’s artistic portrayal of the everyday, making the ordinary exchanges powerfully meaningful and emotional.