The only other Marilynne Robinson book I’ve read is the only one that doesn’t involve this same group of characters in Gilead, Iowa. Though the third in that series, Lila deﬁnitely can stand alone. From what I’ve read, this is somewhat of a retelling of at least parts of the same stories found in the other two, just from a diﬀerent character’s perspective — instead of sewing contrasting points of view in one story, Robinson gives them entire books. While part of me is interested to read the others, I so enjoyed reading from Lila’s perspective that I’m a little hesitant to take on a diﬀerent angle. I suspect I’ve already read the book that I will like the most.
At times the religious themes left me a little cold, but Robinson has a way with creating quiet novels with large, philosophical natures. They have a concise vastness. She writes some of the most beautiful things about loneliness and abandonment. In an interview from 2008, Robinson responded to a question about why Americans avoid contemplating larger issues by saying:
People are frightened of themselves. It’s like Freud saying that the best thing is to have no sensation at all, as if we’re supposed to live painlessly and unconsciously in the world. I have a much diﬀerent view. The ancients are right: the dear old human experience is a singular, diﬃcult, shadowed, brilliant experience that does not resolve into being comfortable in the world. The valley of the shadow is part of that, and you are depriving yourself if you do not experience what humankind has experienced, including doubt and sorrow. We experience pain and diﬃculty as failure instead of saying, I will pass through this, everyone I have ever admired has passed through this, music has come out of this, literature has come out of it. We should think of our humanity as a privilege.