Bucket's Reviews > Housekeeping

Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson
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Aug 09, 11

bookshelves: favorites, identity, life-and-death, literary, parents-affecting-children, reviewed
Read from August 05 to 09, 2011

This is a very different story than Robinson's other two books, but it does have one thing in common: random-seeming, musing thoughts that become substantial enough to speak to the story and true nature of the characters. If anything, this is done most poignantly in Housekeeping simply because Ruth (unlike John Ames in Gilead) doesn't have life all figured out yet. In fact, she knows very little of life and her musings flail in the dark in a way that is real, heartbreaking, and thought-provoking all at once. The sentence about how what was simply unbeing becomes death when you add life to it is haunting me.

I was also intrigued by the passages that reflect on water - how it's smell is like death, because of all the people who have been lost in it, beginning with the Great Flood.

There is a great passage about how our affinity with water has to do with the fact that "like reflections on water our thoughts will suffer no changing shock, no permanent displacement... If they were more substantial - if they had weight and took up space - they would sink or be carried away in the general flux. But they persist, outside the brisk and ruinous entergies of the world."

This passage is the key to Ruth - her thoughts are stabs in the dark and can change nothing for her; like reflections do not disturb the water, her thoughts do not alter her life.

Housekeeping is a book that should be read for the little things rather than for the story itself - the sentences that muse and tap into random ideas here and there are what matter.

Themes: water (and its associations with death), memory, trains, family, loss, being an outsider, small town, normalcy, life's small moments
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08/08/2011 page 143
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