I loved the book "Gilead", so perhaps my expectations were too high. During the boring, interminable conversation in the cemetery I wanted to crawl in a grave and bury myself. To me Jack is a whiner who navel gazes for hours and hours. I liked the character of Della Miles but found it hard to put the two together - not because of race - but because she is honest voice of the book. Jack keeps saying he behaved honorably with Della, but that is another lie. I really, really, really did not like this book. Kristi & Abby Tabby
First of all let me say that I'm probably not the best person to write a review on this book because I prefer books that are murder mysteries, thrillers, futuristic, fast moving, etc. Give my an Andy Weir, Louise Penny, Patrick O'Brian, Faith Hunter, etc., book any day. And, the only reason I checked out this book was because it was on some "must read" list and the author had won the Pulitzer Prize. Having said that....
Horrible book. It's 320 pp. Could have been written in 100pp. I had to force myself to complete the book. It's about a white man (Jack) who is a life long loser, a black woman (Della) who is well educated, very nice, and has great things going for her, and race relations. The entire book is about their feelings, how they view themselves and the world, blah, blah, and more blah!!!! BORING, BORING, BORING!!!!!
However, I am going to try to read Gilead, a book by same author. Maybe there's hope for me yet.
This is the 4th book in Robinson's Gilead series. You don't have to read the earlier novels to enjoy Jack, but I felt my reading was all the richer because I had. Jack describes himself as a bum, a thief, an alcoholic, a Prince of Darkness and granted, he has led a spotty life, but his center core is still well bred and well read. His resolve becomes to live a life of harmlessness, as he puts it. Then he meets and falls in love with Della. But their love is unlawful. The relationship between Jack and Della is completely charming, deep, and real. A great deal of the book centers on Jack's interior struggles as he weighs his love for Della against the harm that love will undoubtedly bring her. Lots of philosophical questions.
I so enjoyed Gilead, and I was looking forward to reading about Jack. He has been mentioned in previous books in the series. Unfortunately, this book fell flat for me. Jack always seemed so doomed. I thought that his bi-racial marriage might breathe some life into the story, but it didn’t. Della, defying her family should have had more spark, more personality. And I still haven’t figured out why Della was locked into a cemetery for white people at night, where Jack and she spent the night talking. I got bogged down in this cemetery visit and the rest of the book didn’t improve my love of Jack. I think this is a book that you need to have read the previous books.
Grace. That is what I see woven in and through this fourth Gilead novel. Jack Boughton continues to live the life of a thief, a drunk, and a ne'er-do-well. One day he holds an umbrella over a woman who is struggling to hand onto her papers. She invites him into tea and a bond is formed that even a determined father and bishop despairs of tearing asunder. This is St. Louis in the 1950's. Jack is white. Della is black. Yet both reach across that divide as kindred spirits and soulmates. As you can imagine there are harsh realities to be faced. The more I read of Marilynne Robinson the more I appreciate her ability to frame religious debates with such beauty and reverence in the midst of our toilsome existence. What feats we can perform when we have someone loves our very soul.
Jack Boughton and Della Miles--"he was disreputable and she was black"--after a long night of densely philosophical conversation waiting for dawn in a locked cemetery, eventually become a couple: "And this was his grandest larceny by far, this sly theft of happiness from the very clutches of prohibition." Deeply compassionate portrait of a complex man on the extreme margins, stumbling into grace.
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