For Marilynne Robinson devotees, Jack, has been a long awaited novel in the Gilead quartet. Many of the characters, especially the protagonist, Jack Boughton are going to be familiar to readers. But this is probably the first time that an entire novel-length work has been reserved for Jack. It is much like a cross between a novelist itching to work out the backstory of a character that has gripped them and pandering to the market demand for more stories about a community that has gripped their imagination. The storyline dwells mostly on Jack and his troubled past but it is also an incredibly beautiful account of how love blossoms. Marilynne Robinson writes of Jack’s courtship with the “coloured” Della Miles elegantly. It is a stunning meditative theological plunge into understanding how love and fundamental kindness works across man-made social structures. In fact Della’s father, Bishop James Miles is much admired and as Rev. Hutchins points out to Jack that they “are the most respectable family on this round earth”. Jack and Della are very aware of the challenges that lie ahead if they wish to be married as they live in a racially segregated world.
Jack is a stunning novel that works as a standalone story but is enriched knowing the other novels in the quartet too. It is seeped in Christian imagery but it is immaterial as the bottomline is that in the eyes of God (whoever He maybe for the reader), everyone is equal. Having said that it is a wonderful reminder that love does conquer all if the couple in question so desire it. A powerful thought to takeaway from a fictional story when in India we have #lovejihad rearing its ugly head where couples marrying across caste and religious lines are being violently prohibited from doing so. An Indian form of segregation based not on colour but social lines. Hopefully many will take to heart that “take any chance you get to do a kindness. There’s no telling what might come of it.”
Read “Jack”. You won’t regret it.
21 Nov 2020