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Housekeeping: 05/14/07


Housekeeping is the first new book I've bought on a complete whim. It's also one of the best books I've read in 2007 so far. I have to admit that I chose it for two reasons: the gorgeous photograph of a train bridge and its length (only 224 pages).

While Ruth is the narrator and the story centers around the misfortunes of her family, the true protagonist is Fingerbone, a place somewhere near Seattle but in the cold, remote regions of the mountains. The temperamental lake and the severe winters are constant challenges to the residents of Fingerbone. The lake is constantly claiming victims, including an entire train and later most of the houses.

It is against this hard wilderness and ever present threat of damp and mold that Ruth tells her story of her family and how it dwindled down to just Aunt Sylvie, sister Lucille and herself. It is also the story of the family house and how it weathers its many different owners and falls into disrepair under Aunt Sylvie's watch.

Aunt Sylvie is by far the most interesting and best realized character in the novel. The responsibility of raising and caring for Ruth and Lucille falls on her shoulders when her sisters flee back to Seattle to live in the luxury of their basement hotel room. Ruth's descriptions of how the house changes after Sylvie's arrival beautifully and subtlety describes just how overwhelmed Sylvie is by the responsibility of caring for a house and two young children. And yet it's also clear that in her own way, Sylvie does love the children.

Comments (4)

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Comment #1: Tuesday, May, 15, 2007 at 08:14:56


This book is on my too-be-read shelf, but I haven't gotten to it yet. Your review makes me want to get to it sooner, rather than later."

Comment #2: Tuesday, May, 15, 2007 at 08:16:13


Thank you for the comment. I hope you enjoy the book!"

Comment #3: Tuesday, May, 15, 2007 at 08:14:56


I enjoyed this book too, which surprised me. I usually get very frustrated with what I would call "atmospheric" books, but she is just an amazing writer.

I haven't yet attempted Gilead, which is a book she received several awards for, but it is on my to-read list."

Comment #4: Tuesday, May, 15, 2007 at 08:17:13


To be honest, I hadn't heard of Marilynne Robinson until last month when I randomly picked her book off the shelf at the bookstore. Lastnight while looking her up at the Library of Congress, I saw that she has other books. I will be keeping her other books in mind for things to read!"

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