This past year I read Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson. It is a powerful story and Robinson such an eloquent writer that I picked the book to be the one I passed out on World Book Night. I have recommended it my students and friends. I identified with Ruthie the main character as she lost her mother and was working to keep her sister with her. I lost my father and as the oldest felt that responsibility to help my mom hold the family together.
Mark O’Connell recently wrote Why I Love Marilynne Robinson in the New Yorker. What is interesting that O’Connell states, “But even though I’m a more or less a fully paid-up atheist, I’m more drawn to Robinson’s Christian humanism than I am to the Dawkins-Dennett-Hitchens-Harris school of anti-theist fighting talk.” That is what is amazing about Robinson, who is a Calvinist but draws readers from different worldviews.
O’Connell is drawn to Robinson for two reasons. “The first is the grace of Robinson’s prose.” I totally understand this and when I read Housekeeping I was taken back by the beauty of her writing, making notes in the margins of sections to share with my students. Her storytelling and beautiful prose won her a Pulitzer Prize for Gilead.
“The second reason why I love Robinson then,” writes O’Connell, “is how her writing puts me inside an apprehension of the world that is totally foreign to me, and that I have often approached with borderline hostility.” If only more Christians would write that way. I am so often disappointed in the fiction I see lining the shelves of Christian bookstores, light romance, some fantasy and for the most part if you have read one, you have read them all.
Robinson is reaching people because of her beautiful prose and powerful storytelling. She reminds me of C. S. Lewis and G. K. Chesterton, men who were excellent writers of both essays and stories and well-regarded by many people not just by those in the Christian community.
On my summer reading list is her latest book, When I Was a Child I Read Books: Essays. If you haven’t read any of her works check I urge you to do so. You won’t be disappointed but stretched and encouraged.
What Marilynne Robinson books have you read?