Fiction Book of the Month: Lila
Marilynne Robinson has a way of capturing a world in a sentence. A way of making you look at the smallest things with careful consideration. And a way of making you contemplate God without realising that you are doing it.
But not in an orthodox way – and not in a proscriptive way - more – she makes you look at human existence and wonder about things like salvation and grace. And wonder what form they might take in the life of a character like Lila.
Lila is the eponymous character in the book, which is the third part of the Gilead trilogy. And while readers will be familiar with the setting of Gilead, Iowa – a small Mid-Western town where “dogs sleep in the street” – they will be a little surprised by Lila. And by her story of brutality, hardship and hardening skin. She is unused to the softness and the kindness with which the Reverent Ames treats her. She is unprepared for their marriage. This is a story about being unready and unable to understand redemption when it comes.
If you haven’t read Robinson’s other work – do. But also, don’t be put off. There is nothing here you couldn’t understand as a new reader - this book has a mesmeric simplicity to it that will guide you through. It is wise too. And very human. Books this good are few and far between.