Because I refuse to carry around the giant 1Q84, I've been reading two books at once. While I'm working my way through Murakami's heavy novel at home, I've been carrying Marilynne Robinson's Housekeeping in my bag to read here and there when I'm out and about.
Reading these two side by side has made me realize that, for me, there are two distinct types of great authors. One is the kind of author that Murakami is, who writes stories that make me wonder how something so complex and unique can come out of a single person's head. The other kind of author gives the impression that their story wasn't something that was fully formed in their imagination, but something that was really labored over slowly, with every word precisely chosen and carefully considered. Marilynne Robinson falls into that latter category. As I read Housekeeping, I could almost feel the thought process that went into perfecting every single word.
The novel centers around two sisters, Ruthie and Lucielle, who are left in the care of their elderly grandmother after their mother commits suicide. When their grandmother passes away, their eccentric aunt Sylvie ends her transient lifestyle and takes up residence as their caregiver. As the girls age, they begin to drift apart. Lucielle, embarrassed by Sylvie's increasingly erratic and dreamy behavior, finally breaks with the family to live with a neighbor. Ruthie, left alone with Sylvie, becomes further drawn in to her strange world. The town begins to notice and suspect Sylvie of neglect. When the local court threatens to step in and split up Ruthie and her aunt, the pair decides to run and return to Sylvie's nomadic, drifter lifestyle.
This is a quiet, densely detailed novel. I'm not sure I can say that I loved the story as a whole, but there were many moments and descriptions throughout that I did love. The pace is just a bit too slow to be a truly compelling read, but the writing itself is just lovely. It's worth reading just for the sake of marveling at Robinson's skill.