I’ve read one other book by Marilynne Robinson, so I knew going into Housekeeping that it was most likely going to be a quiet book, a book about the characters. And I wasn’t wrong. I picked it up used at Powells a few months ago and finally picked it up last week when I had nothing on deck to read. And, as was the case with Gilead, Robinson’s writing blows me away.
Housekeeping is a book about two sisters who have a somewhat traumatic early life and end up living with their aunt who is not the most stable person. Ruthie narrates the book and through her eyes we see how as they grow up, the sisters diverge in how they choose to deal with their strange home life.
Robinson describes the inner workings of what’s going on with Ruthie so well and as she does, you see and feel the strangeness of what the girls are living. I won’t say much more, but I find the way Ruthie thinks at the end of the book fascinating.
We had never really had any use for friends or conventional amusements. We had spent our lives watching and listening with the constant sharp attention of children lost in the dark. It seemed we were bewilderingly lost in a landscape that, with any light at all, would be wholly familiar. What to make of sounds and shapes, and where to put our feet. So little fell upon our senses, and all of that was suspect. (p 130)
It seemed to me that in all this there was the hush and solemnity of incipient transfiguration. Perhaps memory is the seat not only of prophecy but of miracle as well. For it seems to me that we were recalled again and again to a sense of her calm. It seems that her quiet startled us, though she was always quiet. (p 196)