What I Learned from Reading: “Home”

By: Aryanne Ferguson

I’m a thrift store shopper—been buying 50¢ paperbacks for years. Last month I had the good fortune to pick up “Home” by Marilynne Robinson, which is the best book I’ve read (so far) this year.

First lesson: They say write what you love, and I love a writing style composed of thoughtful, simple details. Every page is a lesson on sentence structure, theme, not wasting words, etc. I’ll gush a few sentences to you: “So she bathed the hen and set it in water with the carrots and an onion and the bay leaves. Some salt, of course. And she turned on the heat. Poor little animal. This life on earth is a strange business.” -pg253

Second lesson: Religion doesn’t have to be heavy-handed. These days, people are either politically correct to the extreme, or too in-your-face with their belief systems. Where is the happy medium? In “Home,” Robinson has written a thoughtful meditation on Presbyterian beliefs/theology that never felt overbearing. One of her main characters is a retired priest who wrestles with what actions he’s capable of forgiving, and how his religion dictates he should feel regarding forgiveness. All that is set against the backdrop of alcoholism, impending Alzheimer’s, and American race relations in the 1950s. I learned that if you meditate on religion, give it a backdrop of real world problems.

Third lesson: Sequels should be self-contained. “Home” is the companion book to an earlier novel (which I never read), but I enjoyed it as if it were a stand alone novel. Yes, I probably would have picked up on certain character motivations if I’d read the earlier book, but I still thoroughly enjoyed my reading experience without reading the previous book. I had no trouble following the plot lines or the character development.

Have you read “Home,” Reader? What lessons have you learned from the books you love?

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