I was avidly awaiting this book, the third in a series. Gilead is one of my favourite books and I very much enjoyed reading it again, as well as Home, in preparation for Lila. On the second detailed read of Gilead I found much more humour in it than that first time, indeed I had not realised how funny it was; and I also enjoyed & understood Home so much more on the second read.
Lila is the Reverend John Ames’s wife. In Gilead and Home her past is only alluded to, although it is clear it is a very different background than that of Ames. He only ever speaks of her with adoration and respect, which tells of his deep Christian character and conviction yet also clear love for this woman who had graced his later years.
There are at least three timeframes covered in Lila: firstly, her childhood of poverty & young adulthood. Despite all she lacked in money and education, there was a woman, Doll, who loved her and cared for her. They travelled around the country with others looking for work and she was part of a community. The second part details how she arrived in Gliead, met John Ames and how they came to be together. Here the pieces of the other books start to come together as you see some details from her perspective rather than his. The third part is a little later in their marriage when she realises she is carrying their son. So the whole book is timed prior to that of Gilead. As such, since you know how the story there will progress, the real interest is in Lila herself and how she slowly comes to adopt the faith and figure out how to reconcile her past with her present. Her real struggle is that if she comes to faith and believes in salvation through Christ, what happens to those loved people of her childhood who never believed?
In raising this issue, Robinson deals with something many of us with faith struggle with: how we believe and trust knowing at times that means others are condemned.
Yet again, Robinson’s writing shines through beautifully, and she deals with topics that make you keep thinking about them long after you finish the final page.
I truly hope she writes another book in this series. I would love to hear from Della's perspective, Jack Boughton's wife.