Two questions I can’t really answer about fiction are (1) where it comes from, and (2) why we need it. But that we do create it and also crave it is beyond dispute. There is a tendency, considered highly rational, to reason from a narrow set of interests, say survival and procreation, which are supposed to govern our lives, and then to treat everything that does not fit this model as anomalous clutter, extraneous to what we are and probably best done without. But all we really know about what we are is what we do. There is a tendency to fit a tight and awkward carapace of definition over humankind, and to try to trim the living creature to fit the dead shell.
For me, at least, writing consists very largely of exploring intuition. A character is really the sense of a character, embodied, attired, and given voice as he or she seems to require. Where does this creature come from? From watching, I suppose. From reading emotional significance in gestures and inflections, as we all do all the time. These moments of intuitive recognition float free from their particular occasions and recombine themselves into nonexistent people the writer and, if all goes well, the reader feel they know.
Home by Marilynne Robinson is the same setting from her Pulitzer Prize winning Gilead, but told from a different perspective. This time from John Ames’ good friend the Reverend Boughton’s daughter Glory. A woman who has returned to Gilead, Iowa to take care of her ailing father. Her delinquent older brother Jack soon returns home for the first time in over twenty years, to the joy as well as the sorrow of his father.
With a pace that resonates with Robinson’s first novel Housekeeping and a firm delicacy that balances hope and desolation, religion and hypocrisy, holiness and grace, Home is about a family’s search for rest and life.