by Robinson, Marilynne

"A new Gilead novel that tells the story of John Ames Boughton, the beloved, erratic, and grieved-over prodigal son of a Presbyterian minister from Gilead, Iowa"-

Marilynne Robinson is the author of the novels Lila, Home, Gilead (winner of the Pulitzer Prize), and Housekeeping, and the nonfiction books, When I Was a Child I Read Books, Mother Country, The Death of Adam, and Absence of Mind. She teaches at the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop.

*Starred Review* Jack Boughton has been present, even when he was painfully absent, throughout Robinson's profound saga-Gilead (2004), Home (2008), and Lila (2014)-and now he steps forward to illuminate the hidden facets of his peripatetic life of lies, thievery, bad luck, and dangerous love. Robinson's latest glorious work of metaphysical and moral inquiry, nuanced feelings, intricate imagination, and exquisite sensuousness begins at night inside the locked gates of a St. Louis cemetery where Jack, an alcoholic, sarcastic, and self-loathing white man living rough, encounters the woman he loves, Della Miles, who is a disciplined, poetry-loving, Black, and a devoted high school history teacher. Both are the conflicted children of preachers. Their conversation in the mortuary dark is sparring, existential, and frank, despairing and elated, a high-stakes variation on the courtship-through-conversation in Lila between Reverend Ames and the young stranger who becomes his second wife. But no such happy ending awaits Jack and Della: marriage between their races is not only scandalous but illegal. Jack tries to get right, while Della, a pillar of strength, integrity, and love, contends with her enraged family. Myriad manifestations of pain are evoked, but here, too, are beauty, humor, mystery, and joy as Robinson holds us rapt with the exactitude of her perceptions and the exhilaration of her hymnal cadence, and so gracefully elucidates the complex sorrows and wonders of life and spirit.HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: The newest, avidly awaited novel in National Humanities Medal winner Robinson's acclaimed Gilead saga grapples with urgent questions of race, faith, and equality. Copyright 2020 Booklist Reviews.

A sometimes tender, sometimes fraught story of interracial love in a time of trouble. "I have never heard of a white man who got so little good out of being a white man." So chides Della Miles, upbraiding John Ames Boughton at the opening of Robinson's latest novel, set in an unspecified time, though certainly one of legal racial segregation. Jack hails from Gilead, Iowa, where so many of Robinson's stories are set, and he has a grave waiting there that he seems in a headlong rush to occupy. He drinks, he steals, he wanders, he's a vagrant. Now he's in the black part of St. Louis, an object of suspicion and concern, known locally as "That White Man That Keeps Walking Up and Down the Street All the Time." Della is a schoolteacher, at home in Shakespeare and the classics. Jack is inclined to Milton. He is Presbyterian by birth, she Methodist and pious—but not so much that she can't laugh when he calls himself the Prince of Darkness. Both are the children of ministers, both smart and self-aware, happy to argue about poetry and predestination in a whites-onl y graveyard. The arguments continue, both playful and serious, as their love grows and as Jack tries his hand at the workaday world, wearing a tie and working a till—and, more important, not drinking. Pledged to each other like Romeo and Juliet, they suffer being parted more than they do having to deal with the disapproval of others, whether white or black, though Della's father, aunt, brothers, and sister all separately tell Jack to leave her alone, and once, when Jack's landlady finds out that Della is black, she demands that he leave. The reader will by this time doubtless be pulling for them, though also wondering how the proper Della puts up with the definitively scruffy Jack, even if it's clear that they love each other without reservation. Robinson's storytelling relies heavily on dialogue, moreso than her other work, and involves only a few scene changes, as if first sketched out as a play. The story flows swiftly—and without a hint of inevitability&mdas h ;as Robinson explores a favorite theme, "guilt and grace met together." An elegantly written proof of the thesis that love conquers all—but not without considerable pain. Copyright Kirkus 2020 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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