Book Review of Housekeeping

Author: Marilynne Robinson
Genre: Literature & Fiction
Book Type: Paperback
reviewed on
Helpful Score: 2

this is a stunning book, ostensibly about two sisters being raised by their eccentric aunt. the language and story-telling is simply brilliant: amazingly poignant, natural, surprising, and poetic.
a quote to show what I mean:

Water is almost nothing, after all. It is conspicuously different from air only in its tendency to flood and founder and drown, and even that difference may be relative rather than absolute.

The morning that my grandmother did not awaken, Lucille and I had found her crouched on her side with her feet braced against a rumple of bedclothes, her arms flung up, her head flung back, her pigtail trailing across the pillows. It was as if, drowning in air, she had leaped toward ether. What glee there must have been among the few officials who lingered, what a tossing of crepe-banded hats, what a hearty clapping of gloved hands, when my grandmother burst through the spume, so very long after the clouds had closed over the disaster, so long after all hope of rescue had been forgotten. And how they must have rushed to wrap their coats around her, and perhaps embrace her, all of them no doubt flushed with a sense of the considerable significance of the occasion. And my grandmother would scan the shores to see how nearly the state of grace resembled the state of Idaho, and to search the growing crowds for familiar faces. (p. 164-165)

the story itself starts as matter-of-fact as the small Idaho town it is set in, and proceeds (in a manner immeasurably disconcerting to me and as strange as that same small Idaho town) towards a counterintuitively inevitable conclusion. the themes of life and death, loss and memory, reality and imagination are beautifully interwoven and expressed amid an otherworldly sense of nature. this book should be read and experienced like a poem:

Introduction to Poetry
by Billy Collins

I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem's room
and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author's name on the shore.

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.

From The Apple that Astonished Paris by Billy Collins.
Copyright © 1996 by Billy Collins.