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3.8 29
by Marilynne Robinson

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A new American classic from the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Gilead and Housekeeping

Marilynne Robinson, one of the greatest novelists of our time, returns to the town of Gilead in an unforgettable story of a girlhood lived on the



A new American classic from the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Gilead and Housekeeping

Marilynne Robinson, one of the greatest novelists of our time, returns to the town of Gilead in an unforgettable story of a girlhood lived on the fringes of society in fear, awe, and wonder.
Lila, homeless and alone after years of roaming the countryside, steps inside a small-town Iowa church-the only available shelter from the rain-and ignites a romance and a debate that will reshape her life. She becomes the wife of a minister, John Ames, and begins a new existence while trying to make sense of the life that preceded her newfound security.
Neglected as a toddler, Lila was rescued by Doll, a canny young drifter, and brought up by her in a hardscrabble childhood. Together they crafted a life on the run, living hand to mouth with nothing but their sisterly bond and a ragged blade to protect them. Despite bouts of petty violence and moments of desperation, their shared life was laced with moments of joy and love. When Lila arrives in Gilead, she struggles to reconcile the life of her makeshift family and their days of hardship with the gentle Christian worldview of her husband which paradoxically judges those she loves.
Revisiting the beloved characters and setting of Robinson's Pulitzer Prize-winning Gilead and Home, a National Book Award finalist, Lila is a moving expression of the mysteries of existence that is destined to become an American classic.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Writing in lovely, angular prose that has the high loneliness of an old bluegrass tune, Ms. Robinson has created a balladlike story . . . The novel is powerful and deeply affecting . . . Ms. Robinson renders [Lila's] tale with the stark poetry of Edward Hopper or Andrew Wyeth.” —Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

Lila is a book whose grandeur is found in its humility. That's what makes Gilead among the most memorable settings in American fiction . . . Gilead [is] a kind of mythic everyplace, a quintessential national setting where our country's complicated union with faith, in all its degrees of constancy and skepticism, is enacted.” —Sam Sacks, The Wall Street Journal

“My message is simple. Even if you haven't found the two previous books to your taste, give Lila a try . . . what we get . . . is the highest fictional magic: a character who seems so real, it's hard to remember that she exists only in the page of this book . . . No writers can see life whole. There's too much of it, too many sides, to be comprehended by a single vision. But some books give us a sense of such wholeness, and they are precious for it. Lila is such a book.” —John Wilson, Chicago Tribune

Lila, Marilynne Robinson's remarkable new novel, stands alone as a book to read and even read again. It's both a multilayered love story and a perceptive look at how early depirvation causes lasting damage . . . Robinson is a novelist of the first order.” —Ellen Heltzel, The Seattle Times

Grade: A Emotionally and intellectually challenging, it's an exploration of faith in God, love, and whatever else it takes to survive.” —Entertainment Weekly

“Gorgeous writing, an absolutely beautiful book . . . This should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with Robinson, a novelist who can make the most quotidian moments epic because of her ability to peel back the surfaces of ordinary lives . . . [a] profound and deeply rendered novel.” —David L. Ulin, Los Angeles Times

“Ever since the publication of Robinson's thrilling first novel, Housekeeping, reviewers have been pointing out that, for an analyst of modern alienation, she is an unusual specimen: a devout Protestant, reared in Idaho. She now lives in Iowa City, where she teaches at the Iowa Writers' Workshop and where, for years, she has been accustomed to interrupting her career as a novelist to produce essays on such matters as the truth of John Calvin's writings. But Robinson's Low Church allegiance has hugely benefitted her fiction . . . This is an unflinching book.” —Joan Acocella, The New Yorker

“Marilynne Robinson tracks the movements of grace as if it were a wild animal, appearing for fleeting intervals and then disappearing past the range of vision, emerging again where we least expect to find it. Her novels are interested in what makes grace necessary at all--shame and its afterlife, loss and its residue, the limits and betrayals of intimacy. In Lila, her brilliant and deeply affecting new novel, even her description of sunlight in a St. Louis bordello holds a kind of heartbreak . . . Robinson's determination to shed light on . . . complexities--the solitude that endures inside intimacy, the sorrow that persists beside joy--marks her as one of those rare writers genuinely committed to contradiction as an abiding state of consciousness. Her characters surprise us with the depth and ceaseless wrinkling of their feelings.” —Leslie Jamison, The Atlantic

“Radiant . . . As in Gilead and Home, Robinson steps away from the conventions of the realistic novel to deal with metaphysical abstractions, signaling by the formality of her language her adoption of another convention, by which characters inhabiting an almost Norman Rockwell-ish world . . . live and think on a spiritual plane . . . [Lila is] a mediation on morality and psychology, compelling in its frankness about its truly shocking subject: the damage to the human personality done by poverty, neglect and abandonment.” —Diane Johnson, The New York Times Book Review

“In her new novel, Lila, Marilynne Robinson has written a deeply romantic love story embodied in the language and ideas of Calvinist doctrine. She really is not like any other writer. She really isn't . . . Robinson has created a small, rich and fearless body of work in which religion exists unashamedly, as does doubt, unashamedly.” —Cathleen Schine, The New York Review of Books

“Robinson's genius is for making indistinguishable the highest ends of faith and fiction . . . The beauty of Robinson's prose suggests an author continually threading with spun platinum the world's finest needle.” —Michelle Orange, Bookforum

“The protagonist of the stunning Lila is as lost a character as can be found in literature . . . Don't hesitate to read Lila . . . It's a novel that stands on its own and is surely one of the best of the year.” —Holly Silva, St Louis Post-Dispatch

“Existence and 'all the great storms that rise in it' are at the heart of Marilynne Robinson's glorious new novel, Lila . . . Lila is--at once--powerful, profound, and positively radiant in its depiction of its namesake, a child reared by drifters who finds a kindred soul in 'a big, silvery old man,' the Rev. John Ames . . . Life, death, joy, fear, doubt, love, violence, kindness--all of this, and more, dwells in Lila, a book, I will venture, already for the ages, its protagonist engraved upon our souls.” —Karen Brady, The Buffalo News

Lila is a dark, powerful, uplifting, unforgettable novel. And Robinson's Gilead trilogy--Gilead, Home, and Lila--is a great achivement in American fiction.” —Bryan Wooley, Dallas Morning News

Starred Review This third of three novels set in the fictional plains town of Gilead, Iowa, is a masterpiece of prose in the service of the moral seriousness that distinguishes Robinson's work . . . Lila is a superb creation. Largely uneducated, almost feral, Lila has a thirst for stability and knowledge. As she yearns to forget the terrible memories and shame of her past, Lila is hesitant to reveal them to her loving new husband. The courtship of the couple--John Ames: tentative, shy, and awkward; Lila: naïve, suspicious, wary, full of dread--will endure as a classic set piece of character revelation, during which two achingly lonely people discover the comfort of marital love . . . Robinson carefully crafts this provocative and deeply meaningful spiritual search for the meaning of existence. What brings the couple together is a joyous appreciation of the beauty of the natural world and the possibility of grace.” —Publishers Weekly

Starred Review Robinson has created a tour de force, an unforgettably dynamic odyssey, a passionate and learned moral and spiritual inquiry, a paean to the earth, and a witty and transcendent love story--all within a refulgent and resounding novel so beautifully precise and cadenced it wholly tranfixes and transforms us.” —Donna Seaman, Booklist

Starred Review This is a lovely and touching story that grapples with the universal question of how God can allow his children to suffer. Recommended for fans of Robinson as well as those who enjoyed Elizabeth Strout's Olive Kitteridge, another exploration of pain and loneliness set against the backdrop of a small town.” —Evelyn Beck, Library Journal

“Literary lioness Robinson--she's won a Pulitzer Prize for fiction, a Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award, and a National Book Critics Circle Award, among other laurels--continues the soaring run of novels with loosely connected story lines and deep religious currents that she launched a decade ago, almost a quarter century after her acclaimed fiction debut, Housekeeping . . . Lila's journey--its darker passages illuminated by Robinson's ability to write about love and the natural world with grit and graceful reverence--will mesmerize both longtime Robinson devotees and those coming to her work for the first time.” —Elle

The New York Times - Michiko Kakutani
Writing in lovely, angular prose that has the high loneliness of an old bluegrass tune, Ms. Robinson has created a balladlike story about two lost people who, after years of stoic solitariness, unexpectedly find love—not the sudden, transformative passion of romantic movies and novels but a hard-won trust and tenderness that grow slowly over time. The novel is powerful and deeply affecting…In the hands of another author, Lila's back story might sound sentimental or contrived, but Ms. Robinson renders her tale with the stark poetry of Edward Hopper or Andrew Wyeth…capturing the loneliness of her transient existence.
The New York Times Book Review - Diane Johnson
Told with measured and absorbing elegance, this account of the growing love and trust between Lila and Reverend Ames is touching and convincing…It's courageous of Robinson to write about faith at a time when associations with religion are so often negative and violent. And goodness, a property Midwesterners like to think of as a regional birthright, is even harder than piety to convey without succumbing to the temptation to charge it with sanctimony or hypocrisy. That is not the effect of this lovely narrative…In the end, Lila is not so much a novel as a meditation on morality and psychology, compelling in its frankness about its truly shocking subject: the damage to the human personality done by poverty, neglect and abandonment.
Library Journal
Stepping out of the rain into a church in Gilead, IA, Lila enters a whole new life; eventually, she marries the minister, John Ames. First, though, we learn that she was a neglected toddler pulled to safety by a young drifter named Doll, with whom she shared a strong sisterly bond as they wandered from town to town. Pulitzer Prize winner Robinson continues her Gilead story.
Kirkus Reviews
More balm in Gilead as Robinson (When I Was a Child I Read Books, 2012, etc.) returns to familiar ground to continue the saga of John Ames and his neighbors. Ames, Robinson's readers will know, is a minister in the hamlet of Gilead, a quiet place in a quiet corner of a quiet Midwestern state. Deceptively quiet, we should say, for Robinson, ever the Calvinist (albeit a gentle and compassionate one), is a master at plumbing the roiling depths below calm surfaces. In this installment, she turns to the title character, Ames' wife, who has figured mostly just in passing in Gilead (2004) and Home (2008). How, after all, did this young outsider wind up in a place so far away from the orbits of most people? What secrets does she bear? It turns out that Lila has quite a story to tell, one of abandonment, want, struggle and redemption—classic Robinson territory, in other words. Robinson provides Lila with enough back story to fuel several other books, her prose richly suggestive and poetic as she evokes a bygone time before "everyone…started getting poorer and the wind turned dirty" that merges into a more recent past that seems no less bleak, when Lila, having subsisted on cattails and pine sap, wanders into Gilead just to look at the houses and gardens: "The loneliness was bad, but it was better than anything else she could think of." She never leaves, of course, becoming part of the landscape—and, as readers will learn, essential to the gradually unfolding story of Gilead. And in Robinson's hands, that small town, with its heat and cicadas, its tree toads and morning dew, becomes as real as Faulkner's Yoknapatawpha County, just as charged with meaning if a touch less ominous, Lila's talismanic knife notwithstanding. Fans of Robinson will wish the book were longer—and will surely look forward to the next.

Product Details

Publication date:
Gilead Series , #3
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.54(w) x 8.18(h) x 0.71(d)

Read an Excerpt

The child was just there on the stoop in the dark, hugging herself against the cold, all cried out and nearly sleeping. She couldn’t holler anymore and they didn’t hear her anyway, or they might and that would make things worse. Somebody had shouted, Shut that thing up or I’ll do it! and then a woman grabbed her out from under the table by her arm and pushed her out onto the stoop and shut the door and the cats went under the house. They wouldn’t let her near them anymore because she picked them up by their tails sometimes. Her arms were all over scratches, and the scratches stung. She had crawled under the house to find the cats, but even when she did catch one in her hands it struggled harder the harder she held on to it and it bit her, so she let it go. Why you keep pounding at the screen door? Nobody gonna want you around if you act like that. And then the door closed again, and after a while night came. The people inside fought themselves quiet, and it was night for a long time. She was afraid to be under the house, and afraid to be up on the stoop, but if she stayed by the door it might open. There was a moon staring straight at her, and there were sounds in the woods, but she was nearly sleeping when Doll came up the path and found her there like that, miserable as could be, and took her up in her arms and wrapped her into her shawl, and said, “Well, we got no place to go. Where we gonna go?”

If there was anyone in the world the child hated worst, it was Doll. She’d go scrubbing at her face with a wet rag, or she’d be after her hair with a busted comb, trying to get the snarls out. Doll slept at the house most nights, and maybe she paid for it by sweeping up a little. She was the only one who did any sweeping, and she’d be cussing while she did it, Don’t do one damn bit of good, and someone would say, Then leave it be, dammit. There’d be people sleeping right on the floor, in some old mess of quilts and gunnysacks. You wouldn’t know from one day to the next.

When the child stayed under the table they would forget her most of the time. The table was shoved into a corner and they wouldn’t go to the trouble of reaching under to pull her out of there if she kept quiet enough. When Doll came in at night she would kneel down and spread that shawl over her, but then she left again so early in the morning that the child would feel the shawl slip off and she’d feel colder for the lost warmth of it, and stir, and cuss a little. But there would be hardtack, an apple, something, and a cup of water left there for her when she woke up. Once, there was a kind of toy. It was just a horse chestnut with a bit of cloth over it, tied with a string, and two knots at the sides and two at the bottom, like hands and feet. The child whispered to it and slept with it under her shirt.

Lila would never tell anyone about that time. She knew it would sound very sad, and it wasn’t, really. Doll had taken her up in her arms and wrapped her shawl around her. “You just hush now,” she said. “Don’t go waking folks up.” She settled the child on her hip and carried her into the dark house, stepping as carefully and quietly as she could, and found the bundle she kept in her corner, and then they went out into the chilly dark again, down the steps. The house was rank with sleep and the night was windy, full of tree sounds. The moon was gone and there was rain, so fine then it was only a tingle on the skin. The child was four or five, long-legged, and Doll couldn’t keep her covered up, but she chafed at her calves with her big, rough hand and brushed the damp from her cheek and her hair. She whispered, “Don’t know what I think I’m doing. Never figured on it. Well, maybe I did. I don’t know. I guess I probly did. This sure ain’t the night for it.” She hitched up her apron to cover the child’s legs and carried her out past the clearing. The door might have opened, and a woman might have called after them, Where you going with that child? and then, after a minute, closed the door again, as if she had done all decency required. “Well,” Doll whispered, “we’ll just have to see.”

The road wasn’t really much more than a path, but Doll had walked it so often in the dark that she stepped over the roots and around the potholes and never paused or stumbled. She could walk quickly when there was no light at all. And she was strong enough that even an awkward burden like a leggy child could rest in her arms almost asleep. Lila knew it couldn’t have been the way she remembered it, as if she were carried along in the wind, and there were arms around her to let her know she was safe, and there was a whisper at her ear to let her know that she shouldn’t be lonely. The whisper said, “I got to find a place to put you down. I got to find a dry place.” And then they sat on the ground, on pine needles, Doll with her back against a tree and the child curled into her lap, against her breast, hearing the beat of her heart, feeling it. Rain fell heavily. Big drops spattered them sometimes. Doll said, “I should have knowed it was coming on rain. And now you got the fever.” But the child just lay against her, hoping to stay where she was, hoping the rain wouldn’t end. Doll may have been the loneliest woman in the world, and she was the loneliest child, and there they were, the two of them together, keeping each other warm in the rain.

When the rain ended, Doll got to her feet, awkwardly with the child in her arms, and tucked the shawl around her as well as she could. She said, “I know a place.” The child’s head would drop back, and Doll would heft her up again, trying to keep her covered. “We’re almost there.”

It was another cabin with a stoop, and a dooryard beaten bare. An old black dog got up on his forelegs, then his hind legs, and barked, and an old woman opened the door. She said, “No work for you here, Doll. Nothing to spare.”

Doll sat down on the stoop. “Just thought I’d rest a little.”

“What you got there? Where’d you get that child?”

“Never mind.”

“Well, you better put her back.”

“Maybe. Don’t think I will, though.”

“Better feed her something, at least.”

Doll said nothing.

The old woman went into the house and brought out a scrap of corn bread. She said, “I was about to do the milking. You might as well go inside, get her in out of the cold.”

Doll stood with her by the stove, where there was just the little warmth of the banked embers. She whispered, “You hush. I got something for you here. You got to eat it.” But the child couldn’t rouse herself, couldn’t keep her head from lolling back. So Doll knelt with her on the floor to free her hands, and pinched off little pills of corn bread and put them in the child’s mouth, one after another. “You got to swallow.”

The old woman came back with a pail of milk. “Warm from the cow,” she said. “Best thing for a child.” That strong, grassy smell, raw milk in a tin cup. Doll gave it to her in sips, holding her head in the crook of her arm.

“Well, she got something in her, if she keeps it down. Now I’ll put some wood on the fire and we can clean her up some.”

When the room was warmer and the water in the kettle was warm, the old woman held her standing in a white basin on the floor by the stove and Doll washed her down with a rag and a bit of soap, scrubbing a little where the cats had scratched her, and on the chigger bites and mosquito bites where she had scratched herself, and where there were slivers in her knees, and where she had a habit of biting her hand. The water in the basin got so dirty they threw it out the door and started over. Her whole body shivered with the cold and the sting. “Nits,” the old woman said. “We got to cut her hair.” She fetched a razor and began shearing off the tangles as close to the child’s scalp as she dared—“I got a blade here. She better hold still.” Then they soaped and scrubbed her head, and water and suds ran into her eyes, and she struggled and yelled with all the strength she had and told them both they could rot in hell. The old woman said, “You’ll want to talk to her about that.”

Doll touched the soap and tears off the child’s face with the hem of her apron. “Never had the heart to scold her. Them’s about the only words I ever heard her say.” They made her a couple of dresses out of flour sacks with holes cut in them for her head and arms. They were stiff at first and smelled of being saved in a chest or a cupboard, and they had little flowers all over them, like Doll’s apron.

*   *   *

It seemed like one long night, but it must have been a week, two weeks, rocking on Doll’s lap while the old woman fussed around them.

“You don’t have enough trouble, I guess. Carrying off a child that’s just going to die on you anyway.”

“Ain’t going to let her die.”

“Oh? When’s the last time you got to decide about something?”

“If I left her be where she was, she’da died for sure.”

“Well, maybe her folks won’t see it that way. They know you took her? What you going to say when they come looking for her? She’s buried in the woods somewhere? Out by the potato patch? I don’t have troubles enough of my own?”

Doll said, “Nobody going to come looking.”

“You probly right about that. That’s the spindliest damn child I ever saw.”

But the whole time she talked she’d be stirring a pot of grits and blackstrap molasses. Doll would give the child a spoonful or two, then rock her a little while, then give her another spoonful. She rocked her and fed her all night long, and dozed off with her cheek against the child’s hot forehead.

The old woman got up now and then to put more wood in the stove. “She keeping it down?”


“She taking any water?”


When the old woman went away again Doll would whisper to her, “Now, don’t you go dying on me. Put me to all this bother for nothing. Don’t you go dying.” And then, so the child could barely hear, “You going to die if you have to. I know. But I got you out of the rain, didn’t I? We’re warm here, ain’t we?”

After a while the old woman again. “Put her in my bed if you want. I guess I won’t be sleeping tonight, either.”

“I got to make sure she can breathe all right.”

“Let me set with her then.”

“She’s clinging on to me.”

“Well.” The old woman brought the quilt from her bed and spread it over them.

The child could hear Doll’s heart beating and she could feel the rise and fall of her breath. It was too warm and she felt herself struggling against the quilt and against Doll’s arms and clinging to her at the same time with her arms around her neck.

Copyright © 2014 by Marilynne Robinson

Meet the Author

Marilynne Robinson is the author of the novels Home, Gilead (winner of the Pulitzer Prize), and Housekeeping, and four books of nonfiction, When I Was a Child I Read Books, Mother Country, The Death of Adam, and Absence of Mind. She teaches at the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop.

Brief Biography

Iowa City, Iowa
Date of Birth:
November 26, 1943
Place of Birth:
Sandpoint, Idaho
B.A., Brown University, 1966

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Lila: A Novel 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 29 reviews.
cloggiedownunder More than 1 year ago
“She saw him standing in the parlor with his beautiful old head bowed down on his beautiful old chest……….Praying looks just like grief. Like shame. Like regret” Lila is the fourth novel by prize-winning American author, Marilynne Robinson, and the third book in the Gilead series. Readers of the first book will recall that seventy-six year old Reverend John Ames was married to Lila, a woman thirty-five years his junior who had borne him a son seven years before. Just how that somewhat intriguing situation came to be: how an old man came to marry a much younger woman, a woman with a very different background to that of his first wife; is what Robinson relates in this third book.  As her life with John Ames and her pregnancy progresses, Lila, a seemingly prickly character, thinks back on her life, the events of which are gradually revealed. It has been a life filled with hardship, loneliness and loss (“Don’t want what you don’t need and you’ll be fine. Don’t want what you can’t have”) and Lila finds it difficult to trust her new-found security with John Ames, constantly reassuring herself that she can leave at any time and go back to what she had before, although she is loathe to hurt him (“Maybe I can teach him a new kind of sadness. Maybe he really does care whether I stay or go”). It seems an unlikely match but as Lila reads the Bible and challenges John with all sorts of difficult questions about life, it becomes apparent that both parties benefit from the union. She muses “What would I pray for, if I thought there was any point to it? Well, I guess the first thing would have to be that there was some kind of point to it” and eventually finds that his care “was nothing she had known to hope for and something she had wanted too much all the same. So too much happiness came with it, and happiness was strange to her.” This is a novel with some beautiful descriptive prose (“She had never really thought about the way the dead would gather at the edge of town, all their names spelled out so you’d know whose they were for as long as that family lived in that place” and “….the fields looking so green in the evening light…Every farmhouse in its cloud of trees. There is a way trees stir before rain, as if they already felt the heaviness”), as well as many words of wisdom (“Any good thing is less good the more any human lays claim to it” and “Thinking about hell doesn’t help me live the way I should”). This moving and thought-provoking novel, National Book Award Nominee for Fiction 2014, is a heart-warming read.  With thanks to TheReadingRoom and the publisher for this copy to read and review.
Buglady525 More than 1 year ago
Following Gilead and Home this reader wanted to know more about the wife of the old preacher Ames. Lila slowly unfolds with insights into the life of a person abandoned at such a young age only to be saved by an imperfect, deeply flawed hero. I came to admire Doll as much as any other person in the story due to her authentic caring and strong urge to survive-bringing the broken and fragile Lila along for the journey. I read and re-read Robinson's books because the beauty of the writing haunts me and I want to let her thoughts and words wash over me. I don't want to rush ahead as I so often do! This book and the two that precede it are gifts to the reader.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Lila is an excellent book. It really made me think, and had a spiritual component that I liked more than I thought I would. I typically like more light-hearted books but this was very good. Highly recommend it! 
Gillyfraser More than 1 year ago
A truly great book. it will be a classic.
GL72 More than 1 year ago
This is spiritual without being religious; awe-inspiring and absorbing. The author's writing style is unique. I had not read her before, but once I got into the book, I could not put it down! I was brought to tears by the ending. This author would not be everyone's cup of tea, but I am sure there are others who are devoted fans!
tuh More than 1 year ago
The story of Lila finished the story Robinson began with Gilead and continued with Home. I enjoyed all three, especially, Gilead. However, I believe Robinson has reached the mountain peak with Lila. A beautiful book as all Robinson's efforts are beautiful. I thank her for giving such lovely works to the readers of our world.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
After reading Gilead and Home, it was a joy to return once again to the small Iowa town and peer into the life of Lila, the lovely and mysterious young wife of the Reverend John Ames.  In telling Lila’s tale, Robinson invites us to share in the brokenness of the human experience, but also to taste the sweetness of love, faith and compassion, even when it comes at the most unlikely time and from the most unlikely people.  Robinson’s power to express the elegant intricacies of human relationships within an historical and cultural context stands along side Frost and Tolstoy.  Even more than her previous two novels, Lila reaffirms God’s Mercy as that which embraces human suffering, and connects it to its ultimate meaning in what Robinson calls at the end of the novel, Eternity.
Lynnissima More than 1 year ago
Each of these novels in the Gilead trilogy is balm for the soul.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I forced myself to finish this book. It is disjointed and boring . Most of the pages were meaningless. The author poorly identifies when most of her descriptions refer to. The reader never knows if it is present past or daydreaming. It contains a lot of useless verbiage.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The central theme -- a marriage between elderly Calvinist minister John Ames and vagabond Lila -- is difficult to render in a believable way, but Robinson succeeds. She has the voice of both Ames and Lila just about right, and her portrayal of the life of a small town Midwestern clergyman was refreshingly free of the sentimental piety that is often used to write about such things (cf. the "Mitford" series, which I abandoned midway into the second book). I recommend reading the first two novels in the "Gilead" series before tackling "Lila" if you want a fuller understanding of the characters and plot.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Initially I found this book hard to get into but the further I read the more captivated I became. While there is much tragedy in this novel, it is also hopeful and in the end uplifting. The behavior and outlook of the minister, John Ames, was inspiring. It made me want to read Robinson's earlier book, Gilead. If you find the book difficult at the start, stick with it and you may be rewarded.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Beatifully written jouney of a remarkable woman. Her refections on life create a mosaic of all the doughts we all have about life. The journey is a vinet of the depression years a time our grandparents knew and our parents chose to forget. Anyone reading it wil gain from Lila's simple acceptance of life.
bookchickdi More than 1 year ago
Marilynne Robinson's Lila is the third book, following her Pulitzer prize-winning novel Gilead and Home, set in the small town of Gilead, Iowa. In Gilead, elderly Reverend John Ames has a very young wife named Lila and young son, whom he is writing a long letter to which is the story of the novel. In Lila, we get to know more of Lila, the enigmatic, quiet figure from the periphery of Gilead. The beginning of the book introduces us to the young child Lila, freezing out on a door stoop after someone got tired of her crying. A poor woman named Doll came to her rescue, and takes the severely neglected and abused Lila and runs away. There is a heartbreaking scene as Doll takes Lila to another house, where the woman there gently cleans up the sick and exhausted Lila. It made me cry and that was just page seven. Lila has had a hard life and one day while walking through Gilead, she finds herself exhausted and sees a little abandoned house. She stays there for weeks, living on fish and dandelion greens. She wanders into town and ends up at Reverend John Ames' church during services. After church, she stops by John Ames' home and he invites her in. Watching their relationship blossom, the tender way he cares for Lila and the way she comes to care for him is beautiful, like watching a flower slowly blossom and bloom. Lila works on instinct, and Reverend Ames on intellect, yet they manage to find a way to each other. The writing is gorgeous, the kind that makes want to re-read passages over again to get a full appreciation of Robinson's poetry and skill, like this one: So when she was done at Mrs. Graham's house she took the bag of clothes and walked up to the cemetery. There was the grave of the John Ames who died as a boy, with a sister Martha on one side and a sister Margaret on the other. She had never really thought about the way the dead would gather at the edge of a town, all their names spelled out so you'd know whose they were for as long as that family lived in that place. And there was the Reverend John Ames, who would have been the preacher's father, with his wife beside him. It must be strange to know your whole life where you will be buried. To see these stones with your own name on them. Someday the old man would lie down beside his wife. And there she would be, after so many years, waiting in sunlight, all covered in roses. Lila is a work of art, a quiet book that will pull at your heartstrings and maybe look at people in a different way. It won many awards last year, including The National Book Critics Circle Award, and made many publications Top Ten Lists. It is a book to contemplate and savor. I give it my highest recommendation.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
So well written...beautiful prose, dynamic characters and heart- breaking story.
JuliemTX More than 1 year ago
Goes without saying that this is well-written given the author. The story of two individuals from disparate backgrounds, their ability to be open and thus both realize personal growth is inspirational in a sneaky as opposed to annoying, cliched way.
Reads-by-Night More than 1 year ago
When this book was released with excellent reviews I decided to read all three books that make up the series, starting with Gilead. Gilead was good, but the second book was a little slow, and redundant in places, so I wasn't sure about Lila. After reading it I think Lila is the best book of the three, but I am sure that is better because I know the back story. It moves along quickly, and ties up many of the ends. All three books talk a lot about God, but not in a way that is uncomfortable if you are not a Christian. The story makes you think a lot about human relations, kindness, the rhythm of our lives. I think there is one more book here, which will tell the story from the boy's point. Now you want to find out how it ends with Lila.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was not captivated at all by this book. Why Robinson is considered one of America's greatest story tellers is beyond me. I could not always connect the bible quotes with the story, and the book did not interest me enough to take time to figure it out. Had it not been a Book Club pick, I would not have finished it.
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