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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Who Are You?

"A man can know his father, or his son, and there might still be nothing between them but loyalty and love and mutual incomprehension."

Part of the selection process for the books to be used during the first year of meetings for my book club has been to review my notes on anything I borrowed from the library since 2010. As that review unfolded - especially with novels I've read over these seven years - the unknowability of people kept re-appearing in my notes. Although I haven't yet decided which novel will represent this theme at a future meeting, based on my review, my top two contenders right now are "American Pastoral" (Philip Roth) & "My Name Is Lucy Barton" (Elizabeth Strout).   

Reviewing those notes and detecting that theme probably contributed to making the sentence opening this post jump right off an early page of Marilynne Robinson's "Gilead"  (2004) soon after I began it. Since reading her later novel "Home" a few years back, Robinson had been at the top of my list of must-return-to authors. Both books take place in Gilead, Iowa and feature families with fathers who are Reverends. Each novel is a thoughtful meditation on faith with prose that never raises its voice. If the work of Ernest Gaines or Kent Haruf or Norman McClean has moved you as it has me, be sure to add Marilynne Robinson to your list.

Please tell me and others which novel about the essential unknowability of people has spoken loudest to you. In what way did the author convey that idea that has remained with you, notes or otherwise?      

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