Marilynne Robinson has written some of my favorite books, Housekeeping, Gilead, and Home. Her prose is as crisp and clear as Orwell's and her characters are as realistic as any in modern American literature. Her Christian apologetics are among the best we have today. But this book of essays was disappointing.
It's probably not a good idea to second guess an author's motives but as I read some of the pieces in this collection I found the arguments so weak that I wondered if the author really meant what she was saying. She teaches at the University of Iowa and is deeply embedded in the academic world and I suspect she feels she can only get away with being an assertive Christian by defending much of the platform of the left and the Democratic Party. Unfortunately she does not defend government spending on a gigantic scale with the same conviction she applies to monotheism.
After reading a strong and convincing essay criticizing critics who verge on the anti-Semitic in dismissing the Old Testament's contribution to Christianity, Robinson's comments about modern political movements (i.e., the Tea Party, though she never mentions the group by name) are weak and unconvincing. She shreds Bishop John Shelby Spong and stands up bravely for Calvin.
Robinson is a Christian, says several times that ours is a Christian country (according to polls asking about religious preferences or lack of them), and defends her faith vigorously. She speaks touchingly about the importance of old hymns in "Wondrous Love." Her essay on the Decalogue is brilliant.
So the book is worth reading but the quality varies greatly.
2012 No 53