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Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson

29 Jun

I read this one recently, and it’s such a unique and underread classic…This is one that will stay with you.

Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson

Published: 1980

Genre: fiction (literary fiction)

Difficulty: This one is deceptive. Though the plot is straightforward, there is a lot in it, so I would say somewhat difficult.

Quick Read?: As I mentioned earlier, this book is deceptive. Read it slowly, don’t rush.

Synopsis: The novel begins with a train that runs through the town of Fingerbone out west, and when the train goes over the town’s lake, it runs off the track, killing off everyone onboard, never to be found again. We learn the protagonists’ grandfather supposedly was on that very train, never to be seen again (hence the rather eerie looking cover choice).

Housekeeping follows the lives of two young sisters as they grow up in their grandmother’s house in Fingerbone after their mother abandons them there. But when their grandmother eventually passes away, the only family they have left is their Aunt Sylvie, who we later learn lived a nomadic life following trains. As Sylvie’s strange but true colors show, and the house begins to morph with the passing of the generations, we begin to see the disintegration of the family and their shared common space.

What makes this book awesome?: I had only really heard of this book recently, and at first, wasn’t sure if I was into it. Once I did get into it though, I was so glad I had read it–it’s a masterpiece of slow, suspenseful writing that I feel is truly worth it in the end.

It is a book that creeps up on you–even when you think nothing of interest is happening, very small, subtle details become incredibly important. The terror of the train accident haunts the town, the lake, and in it’s own distinct ways, the different characters. It is poetic and masterfully put together.

I also personally loved how the house sort of acts like a character here (The title is certainly not referring to cleaning, that becomes rather apparent). The condition of the house, who is in side of it, how it is used or not used, becomes integral to the story itself, and I personally love when a space becomes important in a book. It’s much like life–our houses, our safe places, our memories–and I really enjoy that.

If you like this, try: The Completed Short Stories of Flannery O’Connor by Flannery O’Connor, poetry by Sylvia Plath, Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

I always figured success felt like sitting in an oversized armchair. Marilynne and I are on the same page.