Lila is the third book in a pseudo series about a little town called Gilead in Iowa. I feel as I write that sentence it makes this book sound quaint and simple. That is the incredible thing about Marilynne Robinson's work; her books from a distance may sound charming and perhaps even shallow, but within this quaint, mid-west backdrop she weaves in the depths of suffering, joy, and the meaning of life itself.
Lila was soft, quiet, deep, painful, heartbreaking, and absolutely beautiful.
“This is not to say that joy is a compensation for loss, but that each of them, joy and loss, exists in its own right and must be recognised for what it is... So joy can be joy and sorrow can be sorrow, with neither of them casting either light or shadow on the other.”
“That sound of settling into the sheets and the covers has to be one of the best things in the world. Sleep is a mercy. You can feel it coming on, like being swept up in something.”
“He said, "Family is a prayer. Wife is a prayer. Marriage is a prayer."
"Baptism is a prayer."
"No," he said. "Baptism is a what I'd call a fact.”
“Thinking about hell doesn't help me live the way I should. I believe this is true for most people. And thinking that other people might go to hell just feels evil to me, like a very grave sin. So I don't want to encourage anyone else to think that way either.”
“There was no way to abandon guilt, no decent way to disown it. All the tangles and knots of bitterness and desperation and fear had to be pitied. No, better, grace had to fall over them.”
“She thought, If I’m crazy, I may as well do what I feel like doing. No point being crazy if you have to worry all the time about what people are thinking anyway.”
“Fear and comfort could be the same thing. It was strange, when she thought of it. The wind always somewhere, trifling with the leaves, troubling the firelight. And that smell of damp earth and bruised grass, a lonely, yearning sort of smell that meant, Why don't you come back, you will come back, you know you will. And then the stars, and Mellie probably awake, lying there thinking about them.”
“Pity us, yes, but we are brave,” Lila realizes, “and wild, more life in us than we can bear, the fire infolding itself in us.”