Review — Housekeeping

September 16, 2012

Back in August, my subway book was Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson. I don’t know why it has taken me so long to review it. I guess other books and school and internships provide a veritable smorgasbord of decent excuses. All the same, I really enjoyed it and if I’m going to skip reviewing a book it really shouldn’t be that one.

When I visit book blogs I often end up adding books that I see reviewed to my list if they aren’t on it already, or bumping up books that have languished on the list for years to the top. If there’s even a chance that my words have the same effect on others, than Housekeeping needs to make an appearance.

The description from Goodreads:

A modern classic, Housekeeping is the story of Ruth and her younger sister, Lucille, who grow up haphazardly, first under the care of their competent grandmother, then of two comically bumbling great-aunts, and finally of Sylvie, their eccentric and remote aunt. The family house is in the small Far West town of Fingerbone set on a glacial lake, the same lake where their grandfather died in a spectacular train wreck, and their mother drove off a cliff to her death. It is a town “chastened by an outsized landscape and extravagant weather, and chastened again by an awareness that the whole of human history had occurred elsewhere.” Ruth and Lucille’s struggle toward adulthood beautifully illuminates the price of loss and survival, and the dangerous and deep undertow of transience.

I rarely quote copy from Goodreads or the back of the book, but Housekeeping calls for more than I can give.

It is about family and growing up and staying put. About loss and moving on and dysfunction and memory and so many other things. Yep — family, identity, women — Housekeeping has it all. The recurring themes of identity and femininity in the types of “housekeeping” are subtle and profound.

There’s a certain passivity to Ruthie as she matures that in other circumstances I might find perplexing, but in the greater scheme of this work — with its shifting tides of identity and questions of growing up and “out of” or “into” certain things — I think works.

Even writing this is making me want to re-read Housekeeping. It’s a book I imagine I’ll return to quite often in years to come.


4 Responses to “Review — Housekeeping”

  1. Aya said

    The more I think about “Housekeeping” this summer the more I locate Ruthie and Sylvie in haze of PTSD. The entire family is shell-shocked, the craters of emotional loss and discontent have been passed on and imprinted into them by their own love and devotion to each other. Have you read the new Bechdel novel? “Are You My Mother?” b/c I see quite a few connections there.

    • I definitely see what you mean about them living in a haze of PTSD.
      I haven’t read Are You My Mother? yet. I haven’t yet managed to get my hands on a copy, but I’ve been itching to read it.

  2. janereads said

    This sounds like an interesting read. I like that you don’t give away too much. Will have to check this out.

    • It’s a difficult book to review because it’s hard to decide what you can and cannot talk about without “giving something away.”
      You should definitely give it a try . It’s a truly amazing book.

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