cover image Jack


Marilynne Robinson. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $27 (320p) ISBN 978-0-374-27930-1

Robinson’s stellar, revelatory fourth entry in her Gilead cycle (after Lila) focuses on Jack Boughton, the prodigal son of a Gilead, Iowa, minister, and the beginnings of his romance with Della Miles before his 1957 return to Gilead in Home. Jack, who disparagingly styles himself “the Prince of Darkness,” finds his life spiraling out of control in St. Louis, where, after dodging the draft during WWII, he spends several years increasingly prone to bouts of heavy drinking, petty theft, and vagrancy. His tailspin is interrupted when he meets Della Miles, an English teacher from a prominent Black family in Memphis. Despite a disastrous first date, the details of which are hinted at in the beginning, and over the numerous objections of Della’s family and white strangers, Jack and Della fall in love, bound by a natural intimacy and mutual love of poetry. Robinson’s masterly prose and musings on faith are on display as usual, and the dialogue is keen and indelible. (“Once in a lifetime, maybe, you look at a stranger and you see a soul, a glorious presence out of place in the world. And if you love God, every choice is made for you,” Della tells Jack.) This is a beautiful, superbly crafted meditation on the redemption and transcendence that love affords. (Sept.)