Marilynne Robinson returns to post-war Gilead, Iowa for a third novel, following up on the prize-winning Gilead and Home for this tale of the much younger wife of the Rev. John Ames and her fractured upbringing.
As a child, Lila is neglected and disdained by her relatives until the day Doll runs off with her without turning back. Raised on the edges of society, by the team she meets Rev. Ames she has seen some of the worst it has to offer, and knows almost nothing about the lives of people who have the things she grew up without.
Robinson sets herself a nearly impossible challenge. How do you make a compelling novel out of the inner life of a woman who is not just uneducated, but unused to communicating her feelings and unwilling to discuss her past?
Lila’s inner monologue opens up as her relationship to Rev. Ames blooms. Starting with simply-put but impossible questions about God and the way the world works, Lila shows herself to be more complex and more interesting than she appears at first glance.
Though Lila does not quite attain the heights of the previous two novels in this series, it is a remarkable achievement in its own right. Robinson is a master, and what she is able to do here on the back of her elegant prose is further proof of her genius.