2016 All Iowa Reads selection: Lila by Marilynne Robinson
2016 AIR Program Links:
Although Lila is part of the Gilead trilogy, the novel stands on its own as a powerful story of a woman who, homeless and unschooled, nevertheless leads those around her from "doubt and sorrow" to compassion and understanding. The action in the story takes place before the two earlier works, Gilead and Home. "When Lila arrives in Gilead, she struggles to reconcile the life of her makeshift family and their days of hardship with the gentle Christian worldview of her husband, the Reverend John Ames, who paradoxically judges those she loves."
Susan Craig, Co-chair of the All Iowa Reads Committee said, "When a book set in Iowa, written by one of the greatest novelists of our time, who lives in Iowa, is proposed for All Iowa Reads it receives serious consideration. The committee had concerns that so many Iowans would have already read Lila by Marilynne Robinson and that we had already selected Gilead for the program. However, the themes presented in the book are universal, and very different from Gilead, the quality of the writing is superb and Lila’s story compelling. We feel that Lila was the right choice for 2016."
In a Starred Review, Publishers Weekly raves that Lila is “a masterpiece of prose in the service of the moral seriousness that distinguishes Robinson’s work…Lila is a superb creation. Largely uneducated, almost feral, Lila has a thirst for stability and knowledge. As she yearns to forget the terrible memories and shame of her past, Lila is hesitant to reveal them to her loving new husband. The courtship of the couple—John Ames: tentative, shy, awkward; Lila: naïve, suspicious, wary, full of dread—will endure as a classic set piece of character revelation, during which two achingly lonely people discover the comfort of marital love…Robinson carefully crafts this provocative and deeply meaningful spiritual search for the meaning of existence. What brings the couple together is a joyous appreciation of the beauty of the natural world and the possibility of grace.”
Marilynne Robinson is the author of the novels, Lila, Home, Gilead, and Housekeeping, and four books of nonfiction, When I Was a Child I Read Books, Mother Country, The Death of Adam, and Absence of Mind. She is the winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction (Gilead), National Book Critics Circle Award (Lila), National Book Critics Circle Award Prize (Home), and the recipient of a 2012 National Humanities Medal, awarded by President Barack Obama, for “her grace and intelligence in writing.”