Photograph called The American Depression chosen to illustrate the review of the book Lila by Marilynne Robinson in The Independent
One of the things I like doing when I finish reading a book is to look at the illustrations accompanying the reviews of the book in various publications. I never do this before I read a book because I like to imagine the settings and characters for the story myself.
I just finished reading Marilynne Robinson’s Lila. I imagined the book happening in various settings I was familiar with….. on the main floor of a house I lived in on Beaverbrook Street in Winnipeg in 1960, in a cabin in the movie Getting Married in Buffalo Jump and in the church at the Steinbach Heritage Village Museum. I also imagined how the characters looked- one had the face of a former student, another Max Von Sydow with long hair, another my nephew, and one had my face. So I was interested to see how visual artists had interpreted the book.
Lila, the book’s title character has a knife which is her link to her past- a past where she experienced abandonment and security, abuse and love, freedom and entrapment. She can never bring herself to get rid of the knife even once she has established a more stable family in Gilead.
Lila has wandered most of her life and even once she settles down with a husband and a child she loves more than she could have ever imagined, she still thinks about leaving and wandering. It is just a part of who she is. I’ve met people like this.
Lila copies out parts of the Bible to improve her handwriting and then begins thinking about the things she reads. She picks some theologically tough books like Ezekiel and Job to start with and tries to make connections between their literary images and her own life. Her pastor husband is intrigued when she shares her questions. She becomes his theological muse and makes him reflect deeply on his own religious understandings.
Lila wanders into a church where the pastor speaking falls in love with her at first sight. She eventually is baptized and marries the pastor, but her relationship with the church is fraught with doubts and misgivings even though the parishioners are very kind to her.
*I didn’t know this book was nominated for the Man Booker Prize while I was reading it and I’m glad. It would have made me think I had to like it. I did like it but just on its own. I didn’t even remember that Robinson had won a Pulitzer Prize for a previous novel.
*Favorite quote from the book…..
Lila’s husband says, “Family is a prayer…….Marriage is a prayer.”
I know someone who when asked to pray often says, “My whole life is a prayer.” Sort of the same idea.
*I’m going to buy this book for our church library. It makes you think about all kinds of things. What is salvation? Should you try and undo your baptism and why might you want to? How could a loving God allow a hell and if there was one, who would go there? When you confess something bad from your past is that all people will ever remember about you? Is confession always a good thing?
*I think it makes such a difference when you read a book. I read this book after I hadn’t really had time to read a good novel for months and I loved that this novel moved slowly and thoughtfully and it had beautiful language because I had the time to enjoy it. If I had read it at a busier time in my life I probably wouldn’t have liked it nearly as much.
Other posts about books……..
The Orenda- I Want to Believe People Are Good
Meeting Wayan from Eat, Pray Love