Jack: Fourth Gilead book requires a bit too much patience

Marilynne Robinson’s novel falls prey to iffy dialogue and its unvarying style

Marilynne Robinson. Photograph: Nancy Crampton

Marilynne Robinson. Photograph: Nancy Crampton

Marilynne Robinson’s new novel, the fourth of her Gilead books, must be one of the most anticipated works of the year. In her previous novels, Robinson has established herself as an unusually calm and understated writer. Her plots are simple and the voices of her characters both indelible and compelling, suffused with an emotional and affective poignancy that can leave the reader’s heart both shattered and somehow expanded.

Jack takes as its focus John Ames (“Jack”) Boughton, familiar to readers of Gilead and Home as the errant, prodigal son of Robert Boughton. In the Gilead novels, we learn about Jack first as a figure of distrust for John Ames, the dying protagonist of Gilead, and later as the tormented brother of Glory Boughton in Home.

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