Monday, September 13, 2010

The prodigal who didn't quite make it home

Rembrandt's Parable of the Prodigal Son  has the returnee resting his young, shaved head on his father's chest while the father's great rich cloak covers him -- an anguished baby, sleeping at last.  Marilynne Robinson's returning prodigal comes home to his father, is welcomed and loved, wants to love back, tries to love back, but never yet settles his head on his father's breast.

We try to love -- we fail to love -- we lose hope of ever loving -- yet in the trying and failing and losing hope love itself arrives: a hesitant presence. Nothing happens in this book: two letters, plenty of meals, a lot of gardening, a couple of visits to church, some games of scrabble.Yet breathing gets a little hard in the final few pages.