This luminous novel is only Robinson’s fourth in a writing career that has spanned nearly as many decades—which makes each one of her works all the more precious.
In Lila, we revisit the Iowa town of Gilead, setting of the eponymous Pulitzer Prize-winning novel and of Home. This time, Robinson tells the story of a young woman who was neglected as a child and rescued by a kind-hearted, fiercely loyal drifter called Doll. Lila grows up traveling with Doll and a down-on-their-luck group who find work where they can along backcountry roads.
Lila is barely surviving when she lands in Gilead, seeking shelter from the rain in a church. She finds herself drawn to the local pastor, a soft-spoken man whom Robinson fans will recognize. But after a lifetime of abandonment, uncertainty and poverty, Lila wrestles with lingering mistrust of the world, and doubts her newfound security as the pastor’s wife and a mother-to-be.
“Even now, thinking of the man who called himself her husband, what if he turned away from her?” Robinson writes. “It would be nothing. What if the child was no child? There would be an evening and a morning. The quiet of the world was terrible to her, like mockery. She had hoped to put an end to these thoughts, but they returned to her, and she returned to them.”
As Lila begins to come to grips with her past, she must decide whether her future is in Gilead. She slowly begins to see what she can offer to her new family and her community, while honoring the transient family of her youth.
In her gorgeous, unadorned prose, Robinson returns to both a place (Gilead) and a theme (keeping faith in a world that can be unbearably harsh and beautiful) 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.