It’s all about grace: Marilynne Robinson’s Lila

Early reviews and essays are coming out.

Leslie Jamison in The Atlantic:

Robinson’s grace is all the things we don’t have names for: the immortal souls we may or may not have, a doll with rag limbs loved to tatters. It’s sweet wild berries eaten in a field after a man baptizes the woman he will someday marry. Grace is money for a boy who may have killed his father; it’s one wife restoring the roses on the grave of another. Grace here isn’t a refutation of loss but a way of granting sorrow and joy their respective deeds of title. It offers itself to the doomed and the blessed among us, which is to say all of us. “Pity us, yes, but we are brave,” Lila realizes, “and wild, more life in us than we can bear, the fire infolding itself in us.”

Ron Charles writes in The Washington Post:

In a way that few novelists have attempted and at which fewer have succeeded, Robinson writes about Christian ministers and faith and even theology, and yet her books demand no orthodoxy except a willingness to think deeply about the inscrutable problem of being. Her characters anticipate the glory beyond, but they also know the valley of the shadow of death (and they can name that Psalm, too).

Michelle Orange in The Book Forum:

Robinson’s genius is for making indistinguishable the highest ends of faith and fiction, evoking in her characters and her readers the paradox by which an individual, enlarged by the grace of God, or art, acquires selfhood in acquiring a sense of the world beyond the self—the sublime apprehension that other people exist.

Which is to say that Robinson’s animating theme—grace—is also central to her genius. Described as “a sort of ecstatic fire that takes things down to essentials,” grace is evidenced in both the particular and the abstract: as laughter, a beloved face or voice, or as “playing catch in a hot street . . . leaping after a high throw and that wonderful collaboration of the whole body with itself”; but also in forgetting “all the tedious particulars,” in feeling the presence of a “mortal and immortal being.” “A character is really the sense of a character,” Robinson has written, and hers suggest, above the particulars, how the mysteries of grace persist in human beings, those wanting creatures who move Ames with their incandescence, the presence “shaped around ‘I’ like a flame on a wick, emanating itself in grief and guilt and joy and whatever else.”

Wyatt Mason offers a compelling profile of Robinson in the New York Times Magazine

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