Lila by Marilynne Robinson


Lila (Oprah's Book Club): A Novel - Kindle edition by Robinson, Marilynne.  Literature & Fiction Kindle eBooks @

Lila is still trying to reconcile that she is here, now, in Gilead, married to the “old man,” John Ames, the respected preacher of this tiny village, especially given her meandering, even sordid past. If he knew the details, would he have so quickly and without judgement have been willing to baptize her? Would he still love her?  Is she willing to risk telling him her secrets? Lila continues to hold herself close, even as she gradually learns about love and trust from the very gentle and kind John Ames.

This is a beautiful prequel to Gilead, very gently revealing the traumatic story of Lila’s youth. We gain insight into her quiet and independent nature, reading about the tender but precarious relationship she had with her beloved Doll, the woman who snatched her away from her house of origin and who raised her and protected her as a mother lioness would protect her young.  We also are with Lila as she struggles to reconcile the ironies of organized religious precepts with the practical realities of the everyman’s day-to-day life.

Once again, Robinson’s writing is exquisite. She is able to quietly release the painful details of Lila’s life just as one might accidentally drop a pearl every now and then from a fine string. She creates images and characters that are imprinted in Lila’s mind, and so too, are imprinted in ours. We feel her loneliness and we are empathetic when Lila can only feel mean, because we are entirely with her in her lived experience. And the intermixing of philosophy and theology and storytelling is so subtle that we are contemplating it without even being aware.

If you’ve read Gilead, you must read Lila – it will only enhance your understanding of the story and of yourself. 


Giliad by Marilynne Robinson


This very beautiful novel is written as a letter from an elderly, dying Reverend, John Ames, to his very young son.  The Reverend is the third generation leader in his small congregation in his smaller town on the American Plains.  As he reflects on his own life, and those of his father and grandfather, he also is visited by his friend’s son, who is in trouble and seeking help of some sort.  There is clearly a very unusual relationship between this man and John Ames, and this creates the little story line that carries the novel.

This is not the kind of book that grabs you  with action and holds you to the end.  This is more the type of book that you have to read slowly, to let the words wash over you so that you can absorb the wisdom within these pages.  It is reflective and pensive and peaceful, and I found myself re-reading many passages in order to appreciate them fully.  And while it is religious, in a sense, it is also universal and I feel that anyone from any background can appreciate the beauty in the words written here.

Read this, take your time, and re-read the lines so that you, too, can love this book as I do.