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Publisher's Summary

A modern classic, Housekeeping is the story of Ruth and her younger sister, Lucille, who grow up haphazardly, first under the care of their competent grandmother, then of two comically bumbling great-aunts, and finally of Sylvie, their eccentric and remote aunt. The family house is in the small Far West town of Fingerbone, set on a glacial lake, the same lake where their grandfather died in a spectacular train wreck and their mother drove off a cliff to her death. It is a town "chastened by an outsized landscape and extravagant weather, and chastened again by an awareness that the whole of human history had occurred elsewhere". Ruth and Lucille's struggle toward adulthood beautifully illuminates the price of loss and survival, and the dangerous and deep undertow of transience.
©1980 Marilynne Robinson; (P)2005 Audio Renaissance, a division of Holtzbrinck Publishers, LLC
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Critic Reviews

"So precise, so distilled, so beautiful that one doesn't want to miss any pleasure it might yield." (The New York Times Book Review)
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Customer Reviews

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By Emily on 07-19-11

errancy, abandonment, and madness

This book is so rich in metaphor, permitting multiple interpretations. Many reviews that I have read of it focus on the author's masterful use of language, but I think it is equally important to consider the themes that she tackles: errancy, abandonment, and madness.

Although the narrator never says so outright, this is a book not only about family losses, but about how people respond to such losses -- either by clinging rigidly to some sort of external structure (Lucille and the grandmother) or by fleeing the scene, whether through physical or psychic abandonment of home (Sylvie, Helen, Ruth).

As a mental health professional, it was fascinating to me to read about characters whose contours would fit within the bounds of psychiatric diagnosis, and yet whose lives are richer, more forgivable, than such categories would suggest. In Ruthie's eccentric grandfather, a sort of outside painter, dreamer, and railroad man, we catch glimpses of manic-depressive illness. In Sylvie, we see a woman teetering on the edge of psychosis, caught up in the detritus of the past while denying the present. Ruthie, who follows Sylvie much like her Biblical namesake followed Naomi, gets caught up in a kind of folie-a-deux, a shared dream of lifting anchor and drifting through the world together. In this family, errancy is a pre-emptive strike against abandonment; before they are deserted, the characters choose to desert the world. Whether or not this is a heroic measure or a thoughtless, selfish choice is up to the reader/listener to decide.

A note about the narrator: I think I would have been able to relish the book more deeply if the narrator had not spoken so quickly. The lines were delivered rapid-fire pace at times, which detracted from the author's careful construction of language and character.

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15 of 15 people found this review helpful

By Deborah on 12-07-06


This was a brilliant book, well written, narrated superbly. It is not the type of book a casual reader would enjoy however. The vocabulary was excellent and the pace was fast. I think I would have preferred to read this, but I was not disappointed in the listen.

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16 of 17 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

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By Catherine on 05-15-10

Housekeeping: wonderful book, dire audiobook

Though it was Marilynne Robisnon's subsequent novel that won the Pulitzer Prize, it wasn't available in audio - and Housekeeping appealed. It is set in the mid-west, and has a cast of female characters. The atmosphere is full of uncertainty and foreboding, but has a lightness of touch that keeps you going. Wonderful writing.
Unfortunately the book deserves a much more intelligent reading; the narrator was often losing track of the sentence structure which really snagged my enjoyment. I had to give up near the end and buy the paperback!

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11 of 11 people found this review helpful

By India on 11-14-11

Impossible to listen to

I managed about an hour of this book before I had to give up. It is read so fast and with no emotion, I found it impossible to digest any of the beautiful language. A real shame.

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5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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By Melinda on 06-29-15


Like a prism, the prose shimmers and splits open life and light. Ruthie's voice leads us through childhood and into a life of transience, ethereal, ephemeral, longing, lost, adrift... But all the while harbouring profound observation and experience. A richness familiar and comforting. This is in interior journey and a metaphor for our collective experience. Im tripping over myself with such high esteem for Marilynne Robinson.

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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