Housekeeping by Marilynn Robinson

Jun 15, 2010

Book Review
Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson

This book is interesting and did keep my attention. I cannot say I really “liked” it. I kept reading because I wanted to know what happened to the girls. Told by “Ruthie”, the narrative follows the life of Ruthie and Lucille, sisters who are abandoned by their mother when she takes them to their Grandmother’s house and then drives her car off a cliff into the lake. Years earlier, Grandfather had died in a train wreck when the bridge gave out and it plunged into the lake. The setting is Fingerbone, Idaho, a town in the far west. Before Grandma dies, she arranges for her 2 sisters to come take over care of Ruthie and Lucille, which they do, but do not enjoy. So, they enlist the girls’ Aunt Sylvie to come take over. Sylvie does come and “sort of” cares for the girls. She lives in her own world much of the time – in and out of reality.

There are themes related to water and the lake, transience, impermanence, familial relationships, freedom, and non-comformity. There is much poetic description of natural settings. Ruthie spends much time alone reflecting on life. Sylvie would be considered by some to be mentally ill, yet the descriptions of her actions and non-actions are filled with insight into the whys and wherefores of her behaviour.

It is a quick read – only 219 pages. Robinson is also author of Gilead, winner of The Pulitzer Prize for fiction, 2005. In 1982 Hosekeeping received the Ernest Hemingway Foundation award for best first novel and the Richard and Hilda Rosenthal Award. If you like lyrical descriptive narrative and exploring human behavior through interesting characters, you would probably enjoy this book.

Reviewed by Library Staff