Top five time… and the authors of the two books represented at #4 and #5 have both appeared on my top lists of the year before. This is Thrity Umrigar’s second visit to the Top 5, with her sublime novel The World We Found coming in at #4 in 2011. Marilynee Robinson came in at #2 in 2008 with Home, the second of the Gilead trilogy, for which this year’s #4 book of the year is the conclusion.
Forgiveness is a topic too often left unexplored. In Thrity Umrigar’s beautifully drawn domestic drama, an Indian immigrant, who harbors a life-altering secret rashly attempts suicide and finds herself in the care of an African-American therapist who is harboring a secret of her own. As the two women become unlikely friends their lives become entangled, but when these secrets are revealed/discovered, the limits of their friendship and their capacity for forgiveness will be tested.
Thrity’s work at spinning domestic, cross-cultural drama is elegant and powerful. Characters shift across reader sympathies, and with the exception of one character who is decidedly one-dimensional, they all reveal hidden depths that make them seem all too real.
Chalk up another strong novel from best-selling author Thrity Umrigar!
Lila is the third in Marilynne Robinson’s exquisite Gilead trillogy that began with Gilead and Home. Lila revisits the Reverend John Ames, late in his life, but is centered around Lila, a wandering woman, taken as a child by the mysteriously scarred woman known only as Doll. For as long as she can remember, Lila’s life has been a hard one, although she wouldn’t describe it as such, being the only life she has had. After her life with Doll is ended, she reaches her lowest point before finding herself living in an abandoned shack in the outskirts of Gilead. It is there that she makes the acquaintance of Reverend John Ames.
It is there that Lila’s life makes a turn. While she struggles with her thoughts, and her beliefs as she reads the bible, she also slowly learns the trust Reverend Ames, who grows to love her.The two eventually marry and start a family, but it is Lila’s journey from harrowing pragmatism to joy and hope that makes LILA beautiful. Marilynne Robinson is a master storyteller, and her words carry with them a spirituality that transcends the religious.