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."
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 has lived in Iowa City since 1989, when she began teaching at the renowned Iowa Writers' Workshop. Her novels have been published in 30 languages. She is the winner of the Pulitzer Prize, Hemingway Foundation PEN Award, National Book Award, Orange Prize, Man Booker International Prize, National Humanities Medal and the National Book Critics Circle Award.