My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Reviewing this book is a difficult task. It is a book that many times I wished to toss aside because it is not an easy book to read. Having said that, I can't think of another book with more beautiful prose, nor can I think of an author other than Marilynne Robinson who writes with such brilliant, sparse prose while capturing the essence of the themes about which she writes.
It is a book about families and difficult family relationships and how family stories that impact generations. "Families are a sorrow, and that's the truth." It is about loss. "Memory is the sense of loss, and loss pulls us after it." It is finding and having connections when on feels cut off and isolated from the rest of the world. "Having a sister or a friend is like sitting at night in a lighted house." It is about identity and isolation.
The setting of the story speaks of such isolation. There seems to be no reason why anyone would be drawn to live in town where the story takes place. The house where the main characters live is perhaps one the most memorable houses I have ever read about. Odd in its location, design, and livability, it mirrors the oddness of those whom have lived there.
Robinson often weaves throughout the story a tale of the great loss that happened when a train derailed and plunged into the lake. The lake is one of the centerpieces of the setting for this book. The shock and grief of that event and the tragedies that followed the train wreck are woven throughout the book. The book is about the deep waters of emotional trauma that the survivors continue to cope as the go about the living out their lives. Each character seems to be alone in a below the surface place of turmoil.
I was relieved, as other readers have said, when I finished the book, but I am also glad I read it. There are so many facets to this book. I will have to re-read it to grasp the depth of it all.
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