Lila by Marilynne Robinson
(Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2014)
Format: library book
From Goodreads: "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 days of suffering 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. But despite bouts of petty violence and moments of desperation, their shared life is laced with moments of joy and love. When Lila arrives in Gilead, she struggles to harmonize the life of her makeshift family and their days of hardship with the gentle Christian worldview of her husband that paradoxically judges those she loves."
I held my breath for an entire hour during one stretch of reading this. Not literatlly, obviously, as I don't post book reviews from the grave, but the experience certainly left me feeling dizzy, awed, gasping and broken. Did I love the first two books in the Gilead series as I loved this one? Probably; it won't be a hardship to reread them in search of the answer to that question. Have I ever felt a character as intensely as I felt Lila. Going to have to say no. She is raw, open, a slate that's not blank in the least but is covered in a language no one knows. Every beat of her life resonated, and Robinson kept me on a sharply-honed knife edge while Lila was living in the shack, balanced between the disordered past that brought her there and the amorphous future of her life in Gilead.