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Home (Oprah's Book Club)

A Novel

Marilynne Robinson


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ISBN10: 1250784026
ISBN13: 9781250784025

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336 Pages


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Winner of the Orange Prize
A National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist
A National Book Award Finalist
Winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize
Winner of the Christianity Today Book Award
A New York Times Book Review Notable Book
A Los Angeles Times Favorite Book of the Year
A San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of the Year
A Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Best Book of the Year
A Seattle Times Best Book of the Year
A Christian Science Monitor Best Book of the Year
A Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year
A Library Journal Best Book of the Year

Shortlisted for the International IMPAC Literary Award

Marilynne Robinson returns to the small town in Iowa where her Pulitzer Prize–winning novel, Gilead, was set. Home is an independent novel that is set concurrently in the same locale, this time in the household of Reverend Robert Boughton, Ames's closest friend.

Glory Boughton, aged thirty-eight, has returned to Gilead to care for her dying father. Soon her brother, Jack—the prodigal son of the family, gone for twenty years—comes home too, looking for refuge and trying to make peace with a past littered with ongoing trouble and pain.

Jack, a bad boy from childhood, an alcoholic who cannot hold a job, is perpetually at odds with his surroundings and with his traditionalist father, though he remains Boughton's most beloved child. Brilliant, lovable, and wayward, Jack forges an intense bond with Glory and engages painfully with Ames, his godfather and namesake. Their story is one of families, family secrets, and the passing of the generations, about love, death, faith, and healing.


Praise for Home (Oprah's Book Club)

"Home is a companion piece to Gilead, an account of the same time (the summer of 1956), in the same place (Gilead, Iowa), with the same cast of characters as the earlier novel. Each book is strengthened and deepened by a reading of the other . . . The two books, different in their form and approach as well as in the details they reveal and the stories they ultimately tell, are an enactment of humanity's broader dance of ever-attempted, ever-failing communication—through a glass darkly . . . Robinson, throughout Home, is tackling almost the opposite of what she undertook in Gilead: rather than granting a direct and illuminated voice to a single, thoughtful soul, she stands back—writing in the third person, albeit in a third person that privileges Glory's point of view—and allows her characters to perform their small daily rituals, to have their conversations, to live through their misunderstandings, each in his or her particular isolation. Crucially, she allows at least very distinct experiences—that of the devout, to which John Ames, Robert Boughton, and even Glory could be said to belong; and Jack's secular universe—to interact with one another, each with its own language and its own jurisprudence."—Claire Messud, The New York Review of Books

"Home is a book full of doubleness and paradox, at once serene and volcanic, ruthless and forgiving. It is an anguished pastoral, a tableau of decency and compassion that is also an angry and devastating indictment of moral cowardice and unrepentant, unacknowledged sin . . . It is a book unsparing in its acknowledgment of sin and unstinting in its belief in the possibility of grace. It is at once hard and forgiving, bitter and joyful, fanatical and serene. It is a wild, eccentric, radical work of literature that grows out of the broadest, most fertile, most familiar native literary tradition."—A. O. Scott, The New York Times Book Review

"Powerful . . . Home begins simply, eschewing obvious verbal fineness, and slowly grows in luxury—its last fifty pages are magnificently moving."—James Wood, The New Yorker

"Marilynne Robinson's Home seems at first to be a sequel to Gilead . . . but it is more like the second panel of a diptych: The two make a pair . . . Home is a wise, beautifully written, deeply meditated tale, but also a disturbing one. It holds out the possibility of home but shows the price that must be paid for it; and shows that the price, for some, is too high."—Alan Jacobs, The Wall Street Journal

"Home is set in the same Iowa town that gives Gilead its name, and amid the same circle of Protestant ministers' families, but it tests that world of piety and stability by forcing it to come to terms with a sense of existential orphan-hood as absolute as any that haunts Housekeeping . . . [Robinson] rules her fictional domain with absolute authority. Of the soul, and its wanderings, and its struggles to find a way home, she is a modern master."—William Deresiewicz, The Nation

"Rich and resonant . . . Gilead and Home fit with and around each other perfectly, each complete on its own, yet enriching and enlivening the other . . . Both are books of such beauty and power."—Emily Barton, Los Angeles Times

"Marilynne Robinson is so powerful a writer that she can reshape how we read; her novels are engineered to slow us down, attune us to silence, guide us toward subtle but meaningful changes in phrasing. ‘Prayerful' is the best word to describe Robinson's prose, not simply because her books are so deeply concerned with matters of faith but because they have the simple meditative energy of prayers themselves."—Mark Athitakis, Chicago Sun-Times

"Home offers such intricate characterizations, so many passages of surpassing wisdom and beauty, one yearns to quote page after page."—Joan Frank, San Francisco Chronicle

"Marilynne Robinson writes masterpieces. Her work is astonishing, lucid, threaded with life's significant questions and a quiet, intelligent grace . . . Home entwines the themes of both Robinson's earlier novels, the transience of human life in Housekeeping and the spiritual rootedness of Gilead . . . We understand that through coming to love a transient, Robinson has captured for us the experience of a small, startling fragment of God's love, crafted ever so beautifully by her combination of faith and literary talent. Home ends on just the note a writer like Robinson wants: 'The Lord is wonderful.'"—Julie Brickman, The San Diego Union-Tribune

"The meaning of kindness is a recurring theme. Every time Glory does something for Jack, he responds, 'That's kind of you,' a phrase that increasingly carries more than politeness. We learn, with Jack and Glory, that kindness is a difficult virtue, a complex obligation between giver and receiver. Toward the end of the book, Jack's father, sick and tired, says in irritation that he doesn't have the strength for kindness anymore. An urgent question resonates on every page: What is a good life? It is a question that Jack, Glory and Ames ponder with deep seriousness. Another is the meaning of grace. If it is God's love, how does it manifest itself? Robinson answers both obliquely, in her loving embrace and deep respect for her saints and sinners. She renders the inner and outer workings of their lives not as painful fact, but as poetry bathed in the beauty of her language."—Brigitte Frase, Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

"The finely honed language of Home reveals an artist at the peak of her powers."—Pat MacEnulty, The Charlotte Observer

"Robinson's authorial voice—sometimes as unstinting as an Old Testament prophet, sometimes as comforting as a beloved hymn—always has the ring of the gospel truth."—Gigi Lehman, The Miami Herald

"Masterful . . . Home is a quietly brilliant picture of small-town Protestant America of the 1950s, a quiet exploration of the contradictions in religion and societal or human nature."—Geeta Sharma-Jensen, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

"[Home] is that rare book (Gilead, her previous novel, is another) that treats religion and believers with neither condescension nor acclaim. The writer is knowledgeable about religious belief yet gives no hint of attempting to influence readers' beliefs. Instead she presents each character as fully human, with flaws, good intentions and actions, anxieties and aspirations. And we come to care for each of them nearly as much as the writer does . . . Robinson's mastery of voice and character keep us engaged and rapt by their struggles with belief and hope, their relationships with one another. The prose forces us to slow our reading, then holds us to the extent that we are disappointed that it ends. The care with which Robinson has created these characters is the care required to love those around us—both those we like and those we don't. Yet she doesn't set out to teach us that lesson; she simply creates good art."—Gordon Houser, The Wichita Eagle

"Robinson returns to the 1950's Iowa setting of her Pulitzer Prize–winning Gilead and ponders many of the same large questions of religion, remorse, and the odds of redemption. This time the story is a midwestern parable of the prodigal son, centered around three members of the Boughton family: ailing, aged Reverend Robert; his thirty-eight-year-old daughter Glory who has arrived to take care of him; and black sheep Jack who comes home after an absence of twenty years, penniless and, to a degree, penitent. Home may be a simple word, but Robinson makes clear the implicit irony—it's never a simple place for adult offspring who dare to go back. Jack and Glory are thrown into a crucible of memory, misplaced hope, ghosts, and overgrown gardens. They attempt to cope with it all by turning to drink or to prayer, by tinkering with an old car, or trying to cook a perfect dumpling. And when all else fails, they fall back on good manners. This has always been Robinson's great strength—her understanding that ritual and domestic detail are a form of salvation . . . The novel is absorbing and affecting and memorable because Robinson does let us see how to make that perfect dumpling. You drench it in a mix of sorrow and secret and truth and stew it just to the point of heartbreak. Then, when you put it on the table, everyone sits up straight and eats politely. Maybe that's all the redemption we need."—Suzanne Freeman, The Virginia Quarterly Review

"As writers go, Robinson is among the super-powered. She moves easily in and out of minds that to a lesser writer would be solid and opaque, evoking their smallest, most intricate emotions with master-level eloquence . . . There are grand things in Home. Perfect things, even."—Lev Grossman, Time

"The first of many things to praise about Home is that it lays bare the folly of those who pretend there is nothing of value in the Bible. I can think of no other work, except Tobias Wolff's short story 'The Rich Brother,' that does such incredible things with the parable of the Prodigal Son . . . There isn't a single character in Home who isn't so entirely, lovingly fleshed out that you expect to find him standing at your elbow, saying, 'Yes, it was exactly like.’"—Stephen Beck, The New Criterion

"The theme-and-variations relationship of Gilead and Home (but which is theme and which variation?) might seem, in theory, like an academic exercise, but in practice it is not. Robinson is a great technician, but technique is the starting-point of her writing, not its object, which is to write, gravely and with a humanity so carefully considered as to have the appearance of simplicity, about the errors, regrets and dire misunderstandings of human life: what can be forgiven and repaired, and what cannot. The cadences of her prose have a resonant authority more like that of great music than language. The effect is utterly haunting."—Jane Shilling, Sunday Telegraph (London)

"A grace variation on the parable of the prodigal son, Home begins with the return of a daughter, the youngest of the right children of Robert Boughton, a former pastor . . . Then her brother Jack appears on the doorstep. A rogue from childhood, an incorrigible charmer as well as an alcoholic, Jack hasn't been home in 20 years, and the story line's emotional suspense hangs on both the legacy of his misdeeds—the fate of a child born out of wedlock; the identity of a mysterious woman who returns his letters unopened—and his pursuits of his father's forgiveness. As it turns out, it's Glory who understands Jack best, and their unexpected complicity forms the soul of this exquisite, often ruefully funny meditation on redemption. Whether comforting her father with pancakes at 3:00 a.m. or bathing her brother following a bender (in the novel's most haunting scene), Glory, like Robinson herself, finds wonderment in life's domesticities and daily rituals, the subtle moments of transcendence that go undetected by professional men of faith . . . For those willing to make the journey, Robinson has created a rich literary refuge."—Megan O'Grady, Vogue

"There is almost no first-rate American fiction about what happens in a household where religion is the family business, but if you ever wondered what it's like to be a preacher's kid, you can't do better than Home. Robinson's greatest achievement is that she manages to introduce the notions of belief and religious mystery without ever seeming vague. She never shies from uncomfortable truths. When Jack asks Glory why she hates Gilead and wants to leave, she says, 'Because it reminds me of when I was happy.' Fixing dinner, she 'wished that it mattered more that [she and her father and brother] loved one another. Or mattered less, since guilt and disappointment seemed to batten on love. Her father and brother were both laid low by grief, as if it were a sickness, and she had nothing better to offer them than chicken and dumplings.' This is a novel that builds its truth out of quotidian detail—the way Jack thumbs the felt on his hat brim, the way Glory thinks in Bible verses: watching Jack leave at the end of the book, she thinks, 'A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, and as one from whom men hide their face. Ah, Jack.' This is book full of sadness, but the greatest sadness on the reader's part is that it has to end. How genuinely mysterious is that?"—Newsweek

"Summary and compression cannot come close to capturing the moment-by-moment beauty of Marilynne Robinson's third novel, Home. It is a novel that unfolds slowly in hushed, carefully observed scenes whose disquieting emotional import vaults off the page. Its power is as much spiritual as literary. And its cumulative impact has as much to do with the pain of misunderstanding that exists among its three main characters as the love that seeks to bridge those misunderstandings . . . Home offers a deeper, richer, more compassionate view of the sometimes charming and frequently discomfiting Jack Boughton. The new novel is told from the perspective of Glory Boughton, the youngest Boughton child, who at 38 years old returns to Gilead to care for her dying father after her own wounding failures in life and love. When her older brother Jack shows up after a 20-year absence, the two struggle to make peace with their pasts, with each other and with their father. Jack, one of the most unsettling characters in recent fiction, is haunted by a kind of spiritual emptiness . . . In fact, the trouble this prodigal son creates is palpable, but in Robinson's inspired telling, it also moves us to empathy. This makes Home a more excruciating but no less beautiful or rewarding read than its predecessor, Gilead."—Alden Mudge, Bookpage

"A companion volume to Robinson's luminous, Pulitzer-winning novel Gilead. The focus here shifts from John Ames, Gilead's memorable protagonist, to his lifelong best friend Robert Boughton. A widowed, increasingly frail and distracted former Presbyterian minister, Boughton has eight children scattered across the country. The story unfolds after two of them come home to Gilead, Iowa: Glory, the unmarried youngest, who has resigned her teaching job so she can care for Robert; and ne'er-do-well Jack, who for 20 years has repeatedly broken his father's indulgent heart with his irresponsible, sometimes criminal behavior and—worse—his absence. 'Why did he leave? Where had he gone? Those questions had hung in the air,' Glory thinks, 'while everyone tried to ignore them, had tried to act as if their own lives were of sufficient interest.' Robinson builds subtle sequences of questions and answers, hesitant attempts at bonding and sorrowful revelations articulated among the three reunited Boughtons as they edge toward, then shy away from accusation and confrontation, feeling their way toward the possibility of forgiveness and healing. This is an inordinately quiet novel, and the patience with which even its most arresting effects are calculated and achieved requires an equal patience on the reader's part. There is, as there is in the life of every family, considerable repetition. It's necessary, as Robinson shows us the complexity and richness of Glory's stoical, though scarcely saintly resilience, of Jack's arduous progression toward genuine maturity, and of their father's seemingly naive, in fact almost visionary forbearance. The result is a compassionate envisioning of singularity and commonality reminiscent of the most soulful and moving work of Willa Cather, William Maxwell and James Agee. Comes astonishingly close to matching its amazing predecessor in beauty and power."—Kirkus Reviews