I read Marilynne Robinson's Gilead and studied it in college. Recently I have come in contact with several passages from the book and have fallen in love with the beautiful language and writing style. It occured to me that I should read another of Robinson's books to relive her excellence. Housekeeping certainly lived up to my high expectations.
The book is narrated by Ruthie, a quiet and contently lonely person. She is raised alongside her sister Lucille by a succession of relatives in Fingerbone, Idaho. Their house sits by a large glacial lake and above the lake are train tracks, the same tracks where their grandfather died in a train wreck. After their mother commits suicide by driving off into the same lake, their grandmother takes care of them. After her death they are raised by their two Aunts before Aunt Sylvie arrives and becomes their final guardian.
The title of this book is simply beautiful. When the book was first published it was said to be a feminist novel but I never got this impression at all. Part of me feels like when there is a story that consists entirely of female characters, it is automatically dubbed to be a feminist work. Not true. Obviously, housekeeping is a very traditional act that women, in the early 1900's and for as long as history can recall, have been taking part in. It is the act of making ones living space presentable and homely. In the case of this book, the title also talks about housekeeping on a deeper level, of rebuilding ones soul and keeping up a spiritual home for ones soul.
The theme of loneliness was also a wonderful aspect of this novel. Ruth is constantly lonely and her experiences and descriptions completely personify what it means to be lonely and why some people suffer from it.
Robinson has a beautiful way of tying literature with theology. What was by far my biggest take away from this book was Robinson's uncanny way of looking at the Bible as a story instead of merely a book of rules to follow. She refers to several areas of the Bible externally and also internally, specifically Ruth's name and her ties to the book of Ruth. The quality of her words is like eating the most gourmet, delicious food. She never ceases to satisfy.
To finalize this review I also want to touch on the ambiguity of the ending. This trope is one that I never grow tired of because it's interactive nature literally invites the reader to finish the story. It is truly beautiful.
Obviously I love this book. It was a quick and immensely enjoyable read. I will give it 5 out of 5 stars. Robinson is quickly becoming my favorite author!