Far from home, I thought of a friend with whom I used to discuss books and religion, amongst other things. We are not in touch much, and it occurred to me I may only see him once or twice more in this life, if at all. I wrote to him about my family, and added:

Have you read Marilynne Robinson? I suspect I have raved to you about her before. I am currently reading ‘Lila’, which follows on from ‘Gilead’ and ‘Home’. The prose is beautiful, with wonderful turns of phrase and thoughtful utterances. A gorgeous, lovely book about gentleness, even though it is about lives that are often harsh and sometimes ugly. I was so happy to hear that it had been published. Reading it makes me feel more empathetic than I really am, the author tricks me into thinking myself insightful and imaginative about other lives, and reading it makes me want to be a better person.

I don’t feel I’m much at reviewing books. I don’t like to give any details of plot away. I don’t have the nuance to articulate the degrees of my enjoyment, nor to sort out the strands of what went together to achieve the total. So this not a review, just a response. Each time I come back to reading ‘Lila’, my heart swells as I open the book. I sink into a warm pool, water that I can breathe, water that refracts light so that I see each thing anew. Feelings that I have had, some that have scared me, some that have haunted me, rise up and float so that I can see them calmly and think, yes, that is how it is. She says the words just right, but in ways that I would never have imagined would be right, until I have read them. Over and over, the loneliness. But knowing that I am not alone in that. Calmness, even in a sleeting, tearing storm. The book will end soon. Everything will end soon, for everyone. But to sit for a moment, and ponder that everything is, maybe, a prayer.

Robinson has won the Pulitzer prize, she needs no praise nor spruiking from me, so that frees me to say my few silly words. Lila is a thing of beauty for me, as were Gilead and Home. Perhaps they might be for you, as well.


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