The novel Home opens with Glory Boughton returning to her childhood home to care for her aging and ailing father. Glory, who is now thirty-eight years old, is the youngest of eight children. Robert Boughton was the Presbyterian minister in Gilead for many years, but has long been retired.
A few weeks after Glory and her father have settled into a comfortable routine, a letter arrives from her brother Jack. Jack’s says that he is coming to visit, which is a surprise because has not been back to Gilead in over twenty years. Jack had always been the wayward son in the Boughton family. Although Jack has caused his family much worry and pain, his father is now overjoyed at the thought of seeing him again. When Jack shows up weeks later, the brother and sister behave like strangers. Their conversations are strained and they are both overly polite with each other.
With time spent working in the garden together, Jack and Glory do become close and share personal details from their past. Glory tells Jack about her failed engagement and her disappointment in the way her life has turned out. Jack reveals that although his life away from Gilead has been fraught with alcoholism, bad choices, and even time in prison, the last ten years have been better because of a woman named Della. Jack admits that he had hopes of bringing Della to Gilead to live. Jack writes letters to Della every day and waits, almost obsessively, for the mail to be delivered.
Jack repeatedly displays concern about the racial conflicts going on throughout the country. He tries to assess his father’s stance on the subject of race, but is disappointed by Boughton’s indifference. It is later revealed that Della is black, and her father disapproves of Jack. Della’s father has forced Jack out of Della’s life, which is why Jack has started drinking again and why he has come back to Gilead.
To Boughton’s delight, Jack expresses interest in attending a service at the Congregational Church where Boughton’s best friend John Ames has been minister for many years. Ames is also Jack’s Godfather, and Jack has always looked to him for approval, and now redemption. After overcoming his fears, Jack attends a Sunday service. However, Ames directs a scathing sermon at Jack’s past sins. Jack is distressed by the sermon and the anger Ames seems to feel toward him. Upon hearing about Jack’s experience and seeing the effects on Jack himself, Glory is angry with Ames and her father is deeply hurt by his best friends cruelty and lack of compassion.
Ames’ sermon reminds Jack that he cannot escape his past. As a young man, Jack impregnated a teenage farm girl named Annie Wheeler. Instead dealing with the situation responsibly, Jack left Gilead and so began his twenty-year absence. Boughton and Glory attempted to do right by the girl and the baby, who were living in poverty, but their kindness was rejected. When the baby was just three years old she died from an infection, and Annie left town.
Later, Glory intercepts the mail and finds four of the letters Jack has sent to Della have been returned with the message, “Return to Sender” written boldly on each unopened envelope. Jack is distraught. Glory suggests that maybe someone other than Della is returning the letters, and perhaps he should try to reach her through a mutual friend.
Jack begins to disappear for entire days, returning to the house only to sleep. Glory explains to her father that Jack is struggling to come to terms with the end of a relationship. Boughton finally loses patience with the situation and demands that Jack explain himself. When Jack politely refuses, Boughton thinks the worst of Jack and makes insulting accusations. Glory is horrified as she overhears Boughton assumptions of her brother.
When Jack disappears again, Glory cannot abide by the worry it causes her father and she sets out to look for him. Glory finds Jack in the garage, drunk and alone sitting...
(The entire section is 1,069 words.)