Lila by Marilynne Robinson
A Novel

77%

44 Critic Reviews

That caveat does not diminish Lila’s beauty. Unlike Home, which essentially told the same story as Gilead from a different perspective, without bringing much new to the table, Lila expands the little world Robinson has created. It successfully argues that there are new avenues to follow...
-AV Club

Synopsis

Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award
National Book Award Finalist

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 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, John Ames, and begins a new existence while trying to make sense of the life that preceded her newfound security.
Neglected as a toddler, Lila was rescued by Doll, a canny young drifter, and brought up by her in a hardscrabble childhood. Together they crafted a life on the run, living hand to mouth with nothing but their sisterly bond and a ragged blade to protect them. Despite bouts of petty violence and moments of desperation, their shared life was laced with moments of joy and love. When Lila arrives in Gilead, she struggles to reconcile the life of her makeshift family and their days of hardship with the gentle Christian worldview of her husband which paradoxically judges those she loves.
Revisiting the beloved characters and setting of Robinson's Pulitzer Prize-winning Gilead and Home, a National Book Award finalist, Lila is a moving expression of the mysteries of existence that is destined to become an American classic.

 

About Marilynne Robinson

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Marilynne Robinson is the author of Gilead, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the National Book Critics Circle Award, and Housekeeping, winner of the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award. Home received the Orange Prize, the L.A. Times Book Prize, and was a finalist for the National Book Award. Robinson’s nonfiction books include Absence of Mind, The Death of Adam, and Mother Country, which was nominated for a National Book Award. She teaches at the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop and lives in Iowa City.
 
Published October 7, 2014 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 273 pages
Genres: History, Literature & Fiction, Mystery, Thriller & Suspense. Fiction
Bestseller Status:
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Peak Rank on Oct 26 2014
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Weeks as Bestseller
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Critic reviews for Lila
All: 44 | Positive: 41 | Negative: 3

Kirkus

Above average
on Aug 07 2014

Robinson provides Lila with enough back story to fuel several other books, her prose richly suggestive and poetic as she evokes a bygone time before “everyone…started getting poorer...Fans of Robinson will wish the book were longer—and will surely look forward to the next.

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Publishers Weekly

Excellent
on May 12 2014

This third of three novels set in the fictional plains town of Gilead, Iowa, is a masterpiece of prose in the service of the moral seriousness that distinguishes Robinson’s work.

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NY Times

Good
Reviewed by Diane Johnson on Oct 03 2014

In the end, “Lila” is not so much a novel as a meditation on morality and psychology, compelling in its frankness about its truly shocking subject: the damage to the human personality done by poverty, neglect and abandonment.

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NY Times

Good
Reviewed by Michiko Kakutani on Sep 28 2014

...Writing in lovely, angular prose that has the high loneliness of an old bluegrass tune, Ms. Robinson has created a balladlike story about two lost people...

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Guardian

Above average
Reviewed by Sarah Churchwell on Nov 07 2014

Some readers accuse Robinson of preaching; others complain when her novels “stray” into politics. But history, moral reform and theology are inextricable from the wonder she expresses and the wisdom she imparts: we can’t have one without the others.

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Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Sophie Elmhirst on Oct 12 2014

You don’t need an ounce of faith to be stunned and moved by Lila. God has never been so attractive as he is in Robinson’s depiction, but her heart is with the human experience, in all its forms.

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WSJ online

Good
Reviewed by Sam Sacks on Oct 03 2014

Most striking of all is the bluesy beauty of the exposition. The novel is told in the third person, but it seamlessly inhabits the motions of Lila’s mind...

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NPR

Above average
Reviewed by Alan Cheuse on Oct 20 2014

Compared to the first of two books in this trilogy, the pace now and then seems to languish, and the narratives feels somewhat haphazard. But even without having read the first two volumes, the more you stick with this one, the more reward you'll find - sort of like Lila and her Bible study in this unpretentious and affecting novel.

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Star Tribune

Above average
Reviewed by Ellen Akins on Oct 04 2014

Lila’s is a sad and sordid story, but what shines from it is the love of Doll, who, however hard and poor she might have been...was “the one who made her live.”

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Financial Times

Above average
Reviewed by Claire Messud on Oct 03 2014

Robinson is a glorious writer, and her sentences, as much as their content, are a consistent pleasure. This novel, different in tone from its predecessors, stands beautifully alongside them, expanding our understanding not only of this woman, Lila, and of these people, but of their time and place.

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Book Reporter

Good
Reviewed by Harvey Freedenberg on Oct 15 2014

The great pleasure of this novel certainly is enhanced by having read its two predecessors, but this graceful story stands fully on its own, an exquisite point of entry into the world of Gilead. Thoughtful readers will want to linger there for a long, deeply satisfying stay.

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LA Times

Above average
Reviewed by David L. Ulin on Oct 02 2014

What he and this profound and deeply rendered novel have to offer, then, is not reconciliation in a sentimental sense but rather on the most vigorous terms imaginable, in a universe that remains opaque to us, where we must decide for ourselves with only questions to lead the way.

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Globe and Mail

Good
Reviewed by Marjorie Celona on Oct 17 2014

In Lila, Robinson has made a profound statement about the safety, and therefore absolute necessity, of love. And yet, it being Iowa, there is always the possibility of a storm on the horizon, of things “caught up in the wind as if they were escaping at last, at last, from having to be whatever they were.”

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AV Club

Good
Reviewed by Noah Cruickshank on Oct 06 2014

That caveat does not diminish Lila’s beauty. Unlike Home, which essentially told the same story as Gilead from a different perspective, without bringing much new to the table, Lila expands the little world Robinson has created. It successfully argues that there are new avenues to follow...

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The Economist

Above average
on Nov 01 2014

Lila, Ames’s late-in-life wife and the eponymous protagonist of Ms Robinson’s most recent novel, is perhaps the richest and most appealing character of the three: fierce, proud and stubborn, but possessed of a bone-deep decency. Boughton and Ames both have deep roots in Gilead, while Lila has no roots at all...

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Entertainment Weekly

Good
Reviewed by Melissa Maerz on Oct 10 2014

It's an unsparing look at a simple life that raises not-so-simple questions. Emotionally and intellectually challenging, it's an exploration of faith in God, love, and whatever else it takes to survive.

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National Post arts

Good
Reviewed by Philip Marchand on Oct 31 2014

The examination of characters’ thoughts is nuanced and subtle, and the shifting of time scenes is complex. But the narrative basis is solid, the sentiments deeply felt, and the prose, reflecting this depth and sincerity, is at times beautifully resonant.

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The Independent

Above average
Reviewed by James Kidd on Oct 12 2014

...Lila manages to be a sumptuous, graceful, and ultimately life-affirming novel that earns the muted, but convincing happiness of its concluding pages...

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The Independent

Good
Reviewed by Neel Mukherjee on Sep 27 2014

The theological motor that powers Lila is the conflict between Ames’s Calvinist idea of souls lost to salvation...but Robinson keeps this aspect subtle. Instead, the human story dominates, resulting in a book that leaves the reader feeling what can only be called exaltation.

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The Telegraph

Above average
Reviewed by Sameer Rahim on Oct 12 2014

Lila, like Home, is a more knotty work than its predecessor – more fallen and earthy. The graceful moments stand out.

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Christian Science Monitor

Above average
Reviewed by Yvonne Zipp on Oct 17 2014

“Lila” doesn’t have quite the moral urgency of “Gilead,” or any character as fiery as John Ames’ grandfather. But it’s a quiet meditation on the nature of salvation, one that casts itself firmly on the side of redemption.

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Booklist Online

Good
Reviewed by Donna Seaman on Aug 01 2014

...a paean to the earth, and a witty and transcendent love story—all within a refulgent and resounding novel so beautifully precise and cadenced it wholly transfixes and transforms us.

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Huffington Post

Good
Reviewed by Claire Fallon on Oct 15 2014

Told in Lila’s own voice, the narrative finds the poetic juncture between her uneducated speech -- she claims at one point to have not known the word “existence” -- and Robinson’s acutely observed and measured prose, resulting in a voice, and a novel, both believable and achingly beautiful.

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Dallas News

Good
Reviewed by Bryan Woolley on Oct 07 2014

Lila is a dark, powerful, uplifting, unforgettable novel. And Robinson’s Gilead trilogy — Gilead, Home and Lila — is a great achievement in American fiction.

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The Boston Globe

Below average
Reviewed by Leah Hager Cohen on Oct 18 2014

What a rich feast of a novel this might have been had it chosen to explore that conflict wholly! And who better than Robinson, preeminent among contemporary American novelists in addressing the role of the sacred in our lives, to take that on? But the deck feels stacked.

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BookPage

Good
Reviewed by Amy Scribner on Oct 01 2014

In her gorgeous, unadorned prose, Robinson returns to both a place...and a theme...that have proven to be so fertile. Lila is a stunning and moving exploration of family and faith, and how to find one’s place in the world.

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San Francisco Chronicle

Good
Reviewed by Scott Esposito on Oct 08 2014

Lila’s pregnancy grows authentically out of the life histories, Americana and religious doctrine that blend within Robinson’s searching sentences. If Ames and Lila do truly answer the riddle that home poses for them, theirs is a satisfying, touching victory.

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Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Below average
Reviewed by Susan Balee on Oct 07 2014

Oh, how I miss the creative energy of “Housekeeping,” Ms. Robinson’s first novel (1980). It came out before the author became a Calvinist, before she began to break down Old Testament stories for intellectual Christians.

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Oregon Live

Good
Reviewed by Angie Jabine on Oct 07 2014

"Lila" is the third novel by Marilynne Robinson in a series that began with the Pulitzer Prize-winning "Gilead" and continued with "Home" but it stands gloriously alone, as if the previous two books were merely paving the way for us to meet Lila.

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Denver Post

Good
on Oct 05 2014

Robinson has created a work in "Lila" that's both old-fashioned and contemporary. Timeless. "Lila," though just now hitting the shelves, has already been long-listed for a National Book Award. This is familiar territory for the award-winning Robinson, and no surprise.

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The National

Good
Reviewed by LUCY SCHOLES on Oct 09 2014

...this novel has a sort of untamed savagery to it that sets it ablaze. Something of Lila’s own raw, uncultivated vitality runs through Robinson’s very prose and the result is magnificent.

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Scotsman.com

Good
Reviewed by David Robinson on Oct 09 2014

The courtship between Ames and Lila, slipped, non-chronologically into odd corners of the narrative, is therefore tentative, and then tender, and then trusting, and then true. And, just like Gilead, tinged with heartbreaking beauty.

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Journal Sentinel

Above average
Reviewed by Mike Fischer on Oct 03 2014

Politically radical as well as a die-hard Calvinist, Robinson creates a body of work that asks such questions with a compelling urgency unmatched by any American writer since Melville and Dickinson.

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Chicago Tribune

Good
Reviewed by John Nelson on Oct 12 2014

No writer can see life whole. There's too much of it, too many sides, to be comprehended by a single vision. But some books give us a sense of such wholeness, and they are precious for it. "Lila" is such a book.

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Irish Times

Above average
Reviewed by EILEEN BATTERSBY on Oct 04 2014

The tales unfold with painstaking care, Robinson does not judge her characters, she allows them to do that themselves. They each appear well aware of their respective shortcomings.

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Herald Scotland

Above average
Reviewed by Todd McEwen on Oct 17 2014

I don't like God and I hate it when he has to be part of a work of art. But I don't care, because Lila is just so damnably beautiful.

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Arts Fuse

Below average
Reviewed by Roberta Silman on Oct 02 2014

Based on a small amount of fiction, Robinson has achieved a huge reputation and my guess is she is rarely questioned or criticized by her first readers. How very sad. When I closed this sometimes poignant book, I could only feel regret that it isn’t better than it is.

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Charlotte Observer

Good
Reviewed by Dannye Romine Powell on Oct 25 2014

Marilynne Robinson knows life is hard and sorrow rampant. But I promise you this. The reverend’s kitchen that snowy day, the two of them together, playing cards as they ride out their fears and the storm, is luminous with grace.

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For Books' Sake

Above average
Reviewed by Rebecca Foster on Oct 23 2014

You don’t have to share Robinson’s Christian outlook to appreciate themes of restoration and serenity after life’s struggles. “He looks after the strays. Especially the strays,” Ames declares. Lila might not quite match Gilead or Housekeeping, but it’s a gentle, peaceful read nonetheless.

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National Post arts

Above average
Reviewed by Philip Marchand on Oct 31 2014

Lila is not an easy book to comprehend. The prose is never deliberately obscure but it requires careful reading and re-reading to determine what refers to whom. The examination of characters’ thoughts is nuanced and subtle, and the shifting of time scenes is complex. But the narrative basis is solid...

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Fresh Fiction

Good
on Nov 06 2014

...Lila is a moving expression of the mysteries of existence that is destined to become an American classic.

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Readings

Excellent
Reviewed by Brigid Mullane on Nov 06 2014

Read alone, Lila is a beautiful work of fiction. It is a stunning tale of acceptance, trust and hesitation. Read as part of a trio with Home and Gilead, the book becomes an exquisitely nuanced work.

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http://flavorwire.com

Good
Reviewed by Jonathon Sturgeon on Oct 07 2014

...the unfolding of Lila’s past, as well as her mind, through language, is unlike anything we’ve seen in American fiction for some time.

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A Common Reader

Good
on Oct 20 2014

The book is, like Robinson’s other books, a little jewel. Her finely crafted text sometimes takes on a poetic feel and she is a master of those moving denouements that bring a tear to the eyes.

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Reader Rating for Lila
76%

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