I liked the concept of this book. It’s story takes place at the same time and with the same characters that are in Gilead, except it focuses on two different characters that were more minor characters in the Gilead Story. I felt like I already knew something about the characters and now this book goes into more depth. It is the story of a sister and brother, one very dutiful, the other a reprobate (authors word). It discusses the return of both to their ancestral house. They are taking care of their ailing father who is a retired Presbyterian Minister. Both have their secrets, ulterior motives for being there, both have their personal failures, and both learn to live with them in different ways. The book is really the inner life of these two characters. It is a well written and like Gilead, at times a bit slow but easy read. From a theological perspectives It touches on salvation, forgiveness, predestination, redemption and how that plays out in our day to day lives. Do we find ourselves to have a role to play in the larger scheme of things and even if that does not bring us happiness does it bring us purpose? And is that good or bad.
In the end, it also speaks about the concept of what home is. Is it a physical place, a touchstone for the history of who we are and how we became who we were. Or is it a state of mind, a place where we find our way. What are the touchstones of your lives? Why do we always look to escape the place from which we were raised?
“All of them call it home, but they never stay….Home, what kinder place could there be on earth and why did it seem to them all like exile….The soul finds its own home, if it ever has a home at all””
Overall I found it a very sad book. That is not good or bad, it is just how it left me. At the end, I was sad for the characters. It made me realize how often we are trapped in our own stories, and how we judge ourselves more harshly then others might. It also focuses on the beauty of the banality of simple kindnesses, but how often that can lead us to avoid our truth.
If you like to read about the inner lives of what drives people, and how they live within the dynamics of family and fitting in or not, it is a good But somber read.