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Lila

(Gilead)

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  27,184 ratings  ·  3,906 reviews
A new American classic from the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Gilead and Housekeeping. Marilynne Robinson, one of the greatest novelists of our time, returns to the town of Gilead in an unforgettable story of a girlhood lived on the fringes of society in fear, awe, and wonder.

Lila, homeless and alone after years of roaming the countryside, steps inside a small-town Iowa
...more
Kindle Edition, 272 pages
Published October 7th 2014 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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Molly I have observed that most people's preferences reflect their own experience. I read them in the order they were written (Gilead first, Lila last, Home…moreI have observed that most people's preferences reflect their own experience. I read them in the order they were written (Gilead first, Lila last, Home in between), and can't imagine reading them any other way. They do stand on their own, but they are also, taken together, a very full experience, one you'll likely remember as its own season ("In the days when I was reading Marilynne Robinson..."). In that regard, however you read it will seem like the only way a person could read.

If I were to give any reason for my preference—other than that I prefer the publication order because it's the order I know—it would be that each book examines an increasingly more mysterious or reluctant character. So the cumulative effect is of dropping more deeply into a well.

Structurally speaking, Gilead uses certain revelations to form its central character especially in the final pages which, should you read Home first, you would already know—and as a result wouldn't find yourself growing along with that character through his story. Home pretends to keep those revelations till the end as well, but it's not really trying very hard in that regard. A reasonably seasoned reader won't be surprised by the ending because of pretty obvious suggestions throughout. Given that, I feel you'd be doing yourself a favor to read Gilead first, so the structure can actually do what it's intended to do for the reader. And I wouldn't suggest reading Home last because its overall tone is not definitive of all three in the same way Lila seems to be. I don't think most people would want Home to be the final sense they're left with of these characters. I could be mistaken. (less)
Diane Warrington I have read all three of her other books. They are beautiful and part of their beauty is their deliberate slowness and development of internal lives o…moreI have read all three of her other books. They are beautiful and part of their beauty is their deliberate slowness and development of internal lives of the characters. Housekeeping is a stand alone novel. Gilead and Home will set up the world of Lila. I can't wait to read it. Robinson is a superlative writer and has explored the world of faith but also the world of the pioneer on the edge of civilisation in the American West. Read it when you have time to savour it.(less)

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Average rating 3.93  · 
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 ·  27,184 ratings  ·  3,906 reviews


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Ron Charles
Jul 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
In 2004, Marilynne Robinson, a legendary teacher at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, returned to novels after a 24-year hiatus and published “Gilead,” which won a Pulitzer Prize, a National Book Critics Circle Award and a spot on best-of-the-year lists everywhere. It’s hard to imagine those accolades meant much to the Midwestern Calvinist, but four years later she published a companion novel called “Home,” which won the Orange Prize and more enthusiastic praise. And now comes “Lila,” already longlist ...more
Candi
"Doll may have been the loneliest woman in the world, and she was the loneliest child, and there they were, the two of them together, keeping each other warm in the rain."

Lila understands what it means to be lonely. She knows what it means to connect with another human soul to overcome that utter loneliness. Lila takes us on her journey and it is one of beauty and understanding and developing faith, not just in God but in the human spirit itself. Despite hardship and neglect, can a person truly
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Michael Finocchiaro
This is my third read of Marilynne Robinson and as always a wonderful one. I inadvertently skipped the 2nd volume of the Gilead trilogy (I'll read Home soon) because the American Library had Lola on the shelf. Sort of a deep dive into the Reverend Ames' wife introduced in Gilead, Lila's story is one of profound pain and suffering and, thankfully, redemption. The book takes place as she becomes pregnant with the Reverend's child as she looks back in a sort of stream of conscience on her life and ...more
Elyse  Walters
Aug 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
It's 4:30am... I lost a lot of sleep-but just finished the last of this series--a life transforming experience.
What to say about Lila? A wild child? Perhaps --but unfortunately-and fortunately I think there are many 'Lila's' in this world. I related to her in many ways myself.

The writing once again blew me away - especially fit the emotional key of perfect pitch for me on several occasions.
This one small sentence alone is one that brought me to real tears:
"Fear and comfort could be the same".
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Fionnuala
Sep 02, 2015 added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everybody
What would it be like to have limited vocabulary with which to phrase our thoughts? Would we then have limited thoughts? Or would our thoughts instead be clearer for the lack of words to muddy them?

Such are the questions that occur to us as we read this account of a homeless woman called Lila, a woman without a surname or knowledge of what country she lives in—except that it’s good country for growing crops—but who knows perfectly her place in the world nevertheless. A woman unaware of the exist
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Dolors
Jan 25, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Contemplative readers
Shelves: dost, read-in-2018
The last book in the Gilead trilogy, and the most unconventional because of the choosing of an outcast as a protagonist. Lila is an orphan, hard-edged, uneducated, a creature that survived the rough conditions of her first years against all odds. Shielded by Doll, the enigmatic woman who saved her life as a baby, Lila pushes through in Dickensian conditions; hunger, loneliness and all kind of picaresque penuries paint her unusual story reminding the reader of the most celebrated works by Steinbe ...more
WILLIAM2
Aug 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“She’d never have even known to want it.” (p. 140)

That sentence might be a kind of overview for Lila. It occurs when her husband, Reverend Ames, gives her a dictionary. Before she met him she was deeply seared by a life of neglect and impoverishment. She was essentially homeless, with something of a checkered past. How she pulled through in the face of such abject loneliness and poverty and abuse is deeply moving and beautifully rendered here.

“She didn’t want to be in any town that was big enou
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Dem
Nov 14, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
2.5 stars

This book is written with the most beautiful and elegant prose and for the first few few pages I really was enjoying the book but sadly the structure of the novel didn't work for me.

Lila, homeless and alone after years of roaming the countryside, steps inside a small-town Iowa church-the only available shelter from the rain-and ignites a romance and a debate that will reshape her life. She becomes the wife of a minister and widower, John Ames, and begins a new existence while tryin
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Diane S ☔
Sep 23, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There is something about the character Lila that I connected to in a big way. How she came to Gilead and married to a preacher is a story that is both poignant and life confirming. She is such a diverse character, wise yet naïve, suspicious yet giving, always thinking and searching for answers.

Reading about her young life, her life as a traveler, going wherever Doll, the woman who took her, needed to go in order to find work. Loved the character of Doll, the wise old woman who had such a tough l
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Violet wells
Dec 07, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 21st-century
Rather like Gilead, I found this an uneven book. The first seventy or so pages are absolutely ravishing – beautiful writing, a compelling story and a real sense the author has embarked on a lucid visionary quest. However, then the story lost most of its drive and the theme became a little monosyllabic. Lila, the feral orphan child searching for identity and a sense of belonging, acquires her grace a little too easily, not surprising as throughout she’s surrounded by idealised characters. There’s ...more
Sara
Some works of fiction are wonderful. They make us laugh, cry, sing. We love their style, their plot, their characters. But, occasionally, a work of fiction steps beyond that and becomes important. It tells us something; something we know but cannot express. It informs us about the human condition, the human spirit, the things that make existence, life itself, worthwhile and meaningful. This is one of those novels. It is one of three, which taken in their totality, are the stuff that true endurin ...more
Angela M
Feb 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I read this in Nov , 2014 and somehow managed to delete my review . This is a reposting .

When I read a book like this I am reminded of why I choose to spend so much of my time reading . This book has characters that I want to know , a story that made my heart ache and yet lifted my spirit at the same time and writing that is just so good that I didn't want the last page to be the last page.

What struck me about Lila was the sadness , the loneliness , the lack of a sense of belonging and her inabi
...more
Jan-Maat
In the beginning were the words, and the spirit of Jean Calvin hovered over them.

This is the same world but a completely different one to Gilead. It is a free standing novel, but plainly also part of a trinity, it is a religious novel full of allusion but doesn't require a prayerful reader who has a thorough going knowledge of chapter and verse. It is hard for me to think of it as other than a masterpiece, the apprentice has brought the evidence of their skill before the guild which cannot deny
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Mandy
Jan 15, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I’ve tried and I’ve tried with Marilynne Robinson. I really have. Each time I pick up one of her books I optimistically feel a surge of hope that THIS time I will get it, THIS time I will understand what everyone else raves about, THIS time I will see the light. But no, yet again I am left bemused as to why she is such an acclaimed writer, and yet again I struggle to continue reading. So I won’t attempt a proper review of her latest novel, which is, like her others, being welcomed as another mas ...more
Jennifer (Insert Lit Pun)
Not to sound dramatic but I could cry for how good this book is.
Lynne King

This novel is written by a woman who is working at the height of her intellectual and literary powers. I do believe that she is unsurpassed in this novel and that this book, as already mentioned by a reviewer, will prove to be an American classic.

Apart from the excellent structure and the mesmerizing prose, religious and spiritual leitmotifs, such as grace, old man, the colour red, and the four elements permeate the text. The word "grace" in biblical parlance can, like forgiveness, repentance, r
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Cathrine ☯️
Nov 21, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: group-challenge
3★
My fourth Marilynne Robinson book, and though I’m a fan, my least favorite in the Gilead series. Halfway through I stop and read some lovely reviews that do it the justice it no doubt deserves and make me feel like a completely inadequate reader not up to the task of appreciation. I feel detached and somewhat bored at points. The structure bothers me. No chapters, just pages that keep going with past events against the current ones in protagonist Lila’s story. I feel the need to stop and ponde
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Jennifer
Oct 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2014, fiction
Have you ever read a book that was so good it hurt? Marilynne Robinson knows how to touch deep places. Simply beautiful.

If you are new to her stories, I would recommend that you read Gilead and Home first. It deepens the appreciation for Lila.

The other day it occurred to me that reading Robinson's novels feels similar to reading Willa Cather. They both have a talent for saying important things in understated, familiar ways that make you really FEEL the truth of them. In this book, Lila herself
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Roger Brunyate
Gilead, Home, and the Undertow of Transience

So Marilynne Robinson returns once more to the small Iowa town immortalized in her Pulitzer Prizewinning novel Gilead; is there really enough material there for three books? When Home, the second novel, came out, my answer was almost but not quite. Now with Lila, I have no doubt. This is every bit as rich and self-contained a book as either of its predecessors, a deeply moving meditation on life, love, and God. It is the simplest of the three novels, a
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David Schaafsma
Lila is the third volume in Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead trilogy. She published her first novel, Housekeeping, in 1979, published this in 2014, and so that is a four novel output in 35 years. She’s no Joyce Carol Oates, putting out a book a year! I am reminded of James Joyce, though, thinking of that slow writing pace. Joyce, responding to a question of how long a reader should spend deciphering Finnegan’s Wake, given it took 20 years for him to cipher it, replied, “That sounds about right, 20 ye ...more
Hilary
After starting Gilead, not enjoying it at all and giving up I was so glad a gave this a try. I found a copy in a telephone box turned into a free library and remembering goodreads friend Booklady's glowing review I brought it home.

This is a very beautifully told story, one that has stayed with me many days after finishing. Lila looks back on her life and as the story is told we weave together past events, Lila's life has dramatically changed, Lila has changed too and we see the gradual change as
...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
I received a review copy of this book from the publisher, but since it was a finalist for the National Book Award, I would have been reading it anyway!

When I finally got around to reading Gilead, I was surprised by how much I liked it despite its very small world. Marilynne Robinson kept to that small world when she wrote Home, a story set in the same time with a parallel character. And this book does it again by telling the story of the wife of the minister from the first book. This one feels m
...more
Diane Barnes
Mar 09, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: motley-crew
This has to be one of the most beautiful love stories I've ever read, even though it would not be classified as such. A young woman battered by life, and an elderly minister beloved by his congregation, yet so lonely, only God and his prayers and old man Boughten next door to keep him company. They very inprobably find each other and get married and have a child, and along the way shyly and fearfully learn to trust each other. The story is told by Lila, since we heard John Ames story in "Gilead" ...more
Rebecca
As John Ames’s late-life second wife, Lila’s something of a background figure in Gilead; there are only hints at her rough upbringing and manners, as well as her slightly unorthodox spiritual thinking. Lila is a prequel, then; its present-day is the late 1940s, when Lila’s wanderings bring her to Gilead, Iowa and she falls into an altogether surprising romance with the elderly pastor. Yet it also stretches back to Lila’s semi-feral upbringing with Doll and the gang, and her brief sojourn in a St ...more
Jeanette (Again)
I just about hyperventilated when I found out Marilynne Robinson has a new novel coming out in October. It has been over five years since I read Home. I may have to re-read it to get myself warmed up for this new one.
Sandie
If you, like I, tend to be the type of reader who is usually drawn to novels filled with plenty of action and edge of your seat plot twists then you will find Pulitzer Prize winner Marilynne Robinson's LILA to be a little slow. It falls into the category of more traditional themes and straight-forward storytelling with LILA sharing her innermost thoughts regarding everything from the events in her childhood and the early wanderings that brought her to Gilead, Iowa to her life as the wife of an e ...more
Jill
Jul 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Lila Dahl is not a new character; those of us who have fallen under the spell of Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead trilogy have encountered her before.

We’ve met up with her in Marilynne’s Robinson’s luminous first book, Gilead, which took the form of a sublime missive written by the aging minister John Ames, who marries the young, itinerant Lila in the winter of his years. In the second of the series, Home, the view changes to John Ames’ best friend, a fellow minister named Boughton, and we meet Lila
...more
Justin Evans
Nov 14, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
By this point, I'm mainly interested in what Robinson is doing with form. I know what I'll get intellectually (and I like it), I know what I'll get in terms of character. This is my least favorite of the Gilead novels, but, dear reader, it might well be your favorite for the very same reasons I'm unmoved.

"Gilead" is a letter written by a well-read pastor; "Home" is a third person novel about more than usually intelligent people. "Lila" is a very close third person novel about a woman who, throu
...more
Dale Harcombe
May 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Sometimes when you love a book as I did Gilead, it is interesting to think how you will respond to another book featuring the same characters but from a different perspective. This book gives us the back story of Lila from the time she was snatched off the stoop by Doll, who saves her from a life of neglect. Not that life with Doll is easy either. They travel with others managing just to get by, sometimes by methods that not everyone would approve of. But hardship can make people do things other ...more
Katie
Lila is rescued from a workhouse when she is five by a woman named Doll. Doll, perhaps owing much to Toni Morrison’s creations, is an eloquent illiterate women, mistrustful of the world at large. The first fascinating question this novel asks is, how does language without formal learning give clarity to experience? Robinson does a masterful job of creating a kind of secret language between the two females. Lila’s real challenge though is to overcome the hard crusted mistrust of intimacy bred int ...more
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Marilynne Summers Robinson (born November 26, 1943) is an American novelist and essayist. Across her writing career, Robinson has received numerous awards, including the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2005, National Humanities Medal in 2012, and the 2016 Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction. In 2016, Robinson was named in Time magazine's list of 100 most influential people.[2] Robinson be ...more

Other books in the series

Gilead (4 books)
  • Gilead
  • Home
  • Jack

Articles featuring this book

The Pulitzer winner returns to the small town of Gilead to examine the human condition and the deprived childhood of a minister's wife in her...
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“It felt very good to have him walking beside her. Good like rest and quiet, like something you could live without but you needed anyway. That you had to learn how to miss, and then you'd never stop missing it.” 36 likes
“This is not to say that joy is a compensation for loss, but that each of them, joy and loss, exists in its own right and must be recognised for what it is... So joy can be joy and sorrow can be sorrow, with neither of them casting either light or shadow on the other.” 25 likes
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