Housekeeping, by Marilynne Robinson
In Housekeeping, Ruth and Lucille are dropped off at their grandmother’s house by their mother, who then drives her car into the same lake their grandfather disappeared into decades earlier when the train he was on was derailed. They are raised first by their grandmother, then their great aunts, and finally by their transient aunt, Sylvie. Sylvie always seems to be elsewhere. They both adore her, at first, but her wanderlust makes them nervous. Will she stick around? She is non-conventional, and is quickly the talk of the town. Their family is alienated, stifled by their own tragedy and loneliness in a home built on shaky foundations. Eventually Lucille seeks refuge with another family, leaving Ruth to become even more closely bonded with Sylvie. Familial history seems to be repeating itself, but external forces are bent on ensuring it doesn’t.
Robinson’s writing is lovely. Her words are like ripples in the lake at the center of her story; unfortunately, her prose never seems to do much more than skim the surface of what’s going on. While reading, I felt on the edge of a deep plunge which is never actually taken. I was left hoping for a more thorough psychological uncovering of sorts. I wanted to better understand the motives and inner thoughts of Sylvie and the girls’ suicidal mother. I wanted to know more about their lives, and Sylvie’s husband (?). I was expecting some sort of revelation that never came. And while I did enjoy Robinson’s style, even that turned a bit rambly and abstract toward the end. Sorry to say, I lost interest about 3/4 of the way through, though I did finish it.
Meh. It was alright, and I can see how some people might really like it. It just didn’t quite grab me like I was hoping it would.