Abandoned by a succession of relatives, orphaned sisters Ruthie and Lucille find themselves in the care of their eccentric aunt Sylvie in their rural home town in Idaho. Ruthie narrates the sisters' story as Lucille moves out into the world and Ruth falls further back into her own family's dark past. Against the stunning backdrop of a bleak ...
Abandoned by a succession of relatives, orphaned sisters Ruthie and Lucille find themselves in the care of their eccentric aunt Sylvie in their rural home town in Idaho. Ruthie narrates the sisters' story as Lucille moves out into the world and Ruth falls further back into her own family's dark past. Against the stunning backdrop of a bleak wintery landscape in a small desolate town, Marilynne Robinson's first novel is a powerful portrayal of loss, loneliness and the struggle towards adulthood. In an interview in the Guardian in 2009 after winning the Orange Prize Marilynne Robinson said "It seems to me that the small drama of conversation and thought and reflection, that is so much more individual, so much less cliched than - I mean when people set out on an adventure, I think 90 times out of 100, they've read about it in a brochure. That's not the part of life that interests me."
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Was anxious to see what all the hype was about-----well it is a story of a dysfunctional family, with 2 young sisters caught in the middle. In some ways it is frightening to know that some people even exist, and can live off the grid quite serenely, taking along young psyches, who cannot make a conscious choice. I found it mind boggling!
Jul 23, 2008
Can you hear the trains?
I bought this book for a graduate class Fall of 2007 but I didn't have to read it so it lingered on my shelf for quite some time. I'm not entirely sure why but I always told myself when I had the time I was going to read this novel. Perhaps it was because of the haunting picture on the cover, with train tracks fading into the fog, but I had a feeling it was going to be different than other novels I have read.
Well, I was definitely right about that.
Told through the viewpoint of Ruth or "Ruthie", this novel discusses the importance of family, transience, loss, and the importance of communication. Ruth and her younger sister Lucille lose their mother Helen (she drives off a cliff) and live with their grandmother, then their two great-aunts, then finally with Sylvie their eccentric and transient aunt. The entire time they live in their grandmother's home by a glacial lake. Their grandfather died in a train wreak and drowned in that same lake before they were born.
The entire novel centers around trains. Sylvie never knows what time it is unless she hears a train go by, there are hobos hanging around the trains, and they talk about the people at the bottom of the lake that died in the train wreak. The town of Fingerbone lives and dies around the world of trains. Also, what I did like about Robinson's writing style is that her sentences are long and full of syllables, much like the cho-cho-choo of a locomotive keeping pace.
The title for the novel Housekeeping comes about when Sylvia realizes that she may lose custody of Ruth (since Lucille willingly decided to leave and live somewhere else) and attempts to clean herself and her life up. The town feared that her transient lifestyle began to affect Ruth (and they were correct). So she began to do all methods of housekeeping in an attempt to clean up and look presentable to society, in the process she tries to change her very nature.
I don't think I would recommend this novel to a friend just because I didn't personally feel any sort of connection with it. Robinson's connections with the lake, family, people, nature, and darkness are all very clever and written in a unique style, but I personally did not enjoy it. One critic remarked that Robinson wrote about the most ordinary things in her own perspective, and I do agree, but at times she drones on and on and on which makes it is very difficult to connect to the characters; at times it feels she is just trying to make her own point in Ruth's voice.
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