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Housekeeping | [Marilynne Robinson]

Housekeeping

A modern classic, Housekeeping is the story of Ruth and her younger sister, Lucille, who grow up haphazardly, first under the care of their competent grandmother, then of two comically bumbling great-aunts, and finally of Sylvie, their eccentric and remote aunt. The family house is in the small Far West town of Fingerbone, set on a glacial lake, the same lake where their grandfather died in a spectacular train wreck and their mother drove off a cliff to her death.
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Publisher's Summary

A modern classic, Housekeeping is the story of Ruth and her younger sister, Lucille, who grow up haphazardly, first under the care of their competent grandmother, then of two comically bumbling great-aunts, and finally of Sylvie, their eccentric and remote aunt. The family house is in the small Far West town of Fingerbone, set on a glacial lake, the same lake where their grandfather died in a spectacular train wreck and their mother drove off a cliff to her death. It is a town "chastened by an outsized landscape and extravagant weather, and chastened again by an awareness that the whole of human history had occurred elsewhere". Ruth and Lucille's struggle toward adulthood beautifully illuminates the price of loss and survival, and the dangerous and deep undertow of transience.

©1980 Marilynne Robinson; (P)2005 Audio Renaissance, a division of Holtzbrinck Publishers, LLC

What the Critics Say

"So precise, so distilled, so beautiful that one doesn't want to miss any pleasure it might yield." (The New York Times Book Review)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.4 (226 )
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3.3 (66 )
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  •  
    dm massachusetts 04-08-06
    dm massachusetts 04-08-06 Member Since 2003
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Beautiful"

    I've seen this movie, read the print novel, and now heard this. I haven't yet found a way into Gilead, but this book is sweet genius. I would comment on the theme, but this is so rich, I'm not sure if one can speak of a theme for this story anymore than one can of a poem or song. This is pure art, but easy to follow. It has something to do with how we manage ourselves and our lives, or how we may not.

    I'd love to know the origin of this story. It's hard to imagine how it was imagined. I have read nothing more beautiful and powerful. The imagery of her language is reason enough to listen, and that's just the beginning of this masterwork.

    Thanks, Marilynne!

    12 of 12 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Deborah Lake Forest Park, WA, USA 11-07-08
    Deborah Lake Forest Park, WA, USA 11-07-08
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    "Beautiful Prose, Horrible Reader"

    This is truly one of the most beautifully written books and it is a shame that the reader is so poor. I will be buying this book to *read* again and again.

    8 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gila Oakland, CA, United States 06-16-09
    Gila Oakland, CA, United States 06-16-09 Member Since 2007
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    "Terrible narrator"

    I really loved Gilead, but couldn't get into this book because of the intolerable narrator. I don't normally have this reaction, but her wooden reading style is more suited to the evening news. Maybe. Totally vapid reading style. Too bad, as now I'll have to wait for time to read the hard copy... because I still love this author.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Deborah New York, NY, USA 12-07-06
    Deborah New York, NY, USA 12-07-06
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    "Brilliant"

    This was a brilliant book, well written, narrated superbly. It is not the type of book a casual reader would enjoy however. The vocabulary was excellent and the pace was fast. I think I would have preferred to read this, but I was not disappointed in the listen.

    10 of 11 people found this review helpful
  •  
    07-19-11
    07-19-11 Member Since 2009
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    "errancy, abandonment, and madness"

    This book is so rich in metaphor, permitting multiple interpretations. Many reviews that I have read of it focus on the author's masterful use of language, but I think it is equally important to consider the themes that she tackles: errancy, abandonment, and madness.

    Although the narrator never says so outright, this is a book not only about family losses, but about how people respond to such losses -- either by clinging rigidly to some sort of external structure (Lucille and the grandmother) or by fleeing the scene, whether through physical or psychic abandonment of home (Sylvie, Helen, Ruth).

    As a mental health professional, it was fascinating to me to read about characters whose contours would fit within the bounds of psychiatric diagnosis, and yet whose lives are richer, more forgivable, than such categories would suggest. In Ruthie's eccentric grandfather, a sort of outside painter, dreamer, and railroad man, we catch glimpses of manic-depressive illness. In Sylvie, we see a woman teetering on the edge of psychosis, caught up in the detritus of the past while denying the present. Ruthie, who follows Sylvie much like her Biblical namesake followed Naomi, gets caught up in a kind of folie-a-deux, a shared dream of lifting anchor and drifting through the world together. In this family, errancy is a pre-emptive strike against abandonment; before they are deserted, the characters choose to desert the world. Whether or not this is a heroic measure or a thoughtless, selfish choice is up to the reader/listener to decide.

    A note about the narrator: I think I would have been able to relish the book more deeply if the narrator had not spoken so quickly. The lines were delivered rapid-fire pace at times, which detracted from the author's careful construction of language and character.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ron New York, NY, United States 02-01-09
    Ron New York, NY, United States 02-01-09 Member Since 2004
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    "A book of uncommon grace and painful beauty"

    "Housekeeping" stands as a quiet masterpiece of 20th-century fiction. It encompasses a world of childhood memory, social awkwardness, wanderlust, family love, and silence.
    This book deserves to be read, listened to, and the movie version (with Christine Lahti) seen.






    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    William Rolling Hills Esate , CA, USA 03-13-06
    William Rolling Hills Esate , CA, USA 03-13-06 Member Since 2006
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    "Haunting, but a bit depressing"

    Housekeeping is a rich story, even though I found it somewhat depressing. Biblical themes abound, but at times it is hard to believe that the sophisticated narrator is a high-school aged girl. The narration, while generally good, is occasionally rather flat and too obviously read. There is a mystical touch here, but all in all I much preferred Robinson’s more recent Gilead. Still, this is a wondrous story, and I will likely return to it again someday for a better understanding of its many themes. The overall theme, however, is that the world is not my home: I’m just passing through.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Leslie Charlotte, NC, USA 09-13-08
    Leslie Charlotte, NC, USA 09-13-08
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    "Best Book I've Ever Listened To"

    I listen to a lot of Audiobooks, but this is the best one I have ever listened to. The book by itself is incredible and the narrator does a great job. I highly recommend.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sarah Alexandria, VA, United States 09-26-11
    Sarah Alexandria, VA, United States 09-26-11 Member Since 2005

    I'm a 60 yr old former English major and grad student. It's been fascinating revisiting the books I studied in my 20s, read aloud to me.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Into the mystic"

    I agree with Emily's review below--this is a fascinating novel of abandonment, loss, mental illness, and mystically merging with nature. I was so moved by the descriptions of the area where the girls lived with their grandmother, the huge lake, the mountains, the woods, the cold and snow. It took me a while to figure out it was in Idaho somewhere. Sylvie and Ruthie spend so much time outside, in all kinds of weather, even spending the night on the lake's edge and then in a small boat in the middle of the lake in the middle of winter. They seemed to want to merge with nature, like the drowned grandfather and mother. There were comical scenes among the tragic, like when the ladies drop by to counsel Sylvie on how to keep house and raise Ruthie. That advice was not going to be taken, not by these two birds of a feather. Their outsiderness was sad, but at least they had each other. Unlike some others, I thought the narrator did a great job with this very literary novel. The language is beautiful, dense and flowing, full of mystery and allusion. I have also listened to Gilead by this author but did not like it anywhere near as much as Housekeeping, though Gilead won awards. Marilynne Robinson writes masterfully of troubled families through generations. She is one of my favorite authors.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Paula Overland Park, KS USA 11-25-12
    Paula Overland Park, KS USA 11-25-12 Member Since 2012

    Enjoying one good listen after the next!

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    "Haunting Story of Sisters and Abandonment"

    The prose in this book is like pure poetry. . . and I learned to love it after the first 10-15 minutes of listening. It was unexpected, but captivating. For me, the narration was superb, although others find fault. It is difficult to dissect this book, because it is a story of memories and relationships and human idiosyncrasy in the raw. Enjoyable and relatively short in duration.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 1-10 of 16 results PREVIOUS12NEXT
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  • Catherine
    Cambridge, United Kingdom
    5/15/10
    Overall
    "Housekeeping: wonderful book, dire audiobook"

    Though it was Marilynne Robisnon's subsequent novel that won the Pulitzer Prize, it wasn't available in audio - and Housekeeping appealed. It is set in the mid-west, and has a cast of female characters. The atmosphere is full of uncertainty and foreboding, but has a lightness of touch that keeps you going. Wonderful writing.
    Unfortunately the book deserves a much more intelligent reading; the narrator was often losing track of the sentence structure which really snagged my enjoyment. I had to give up near the end and buy the paperback!

    8 of 8 people found this review helpful
  • India
    London, United Kingdom
    11/14/11
    Overall
    "Impossible to listen to"

    I managed about an hour of this book before I had to give up. It is read so fast and with no emotion, I found it impossible to digest any of the beautiful language. A real shame.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
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