I’m finally catching up with Marilynne Robinson, and what took me so long? I was afraid to read her latest novel, Lila, because it’s the third in a series after Gilead and Home, and I didn’t want to ruin the whole thing by reading them out of order—which happened to me with Edward St. Aubyn. (Take my advice and don’t start his Patrick Melrose books with At Last.) Of course, I’d always rather start at the beginning, but sometimes, because of serving on awards juries, I have to read a book that came out in the current year whether I’m ready for it or not.
Fortunately, Lila is a remarkable book and stands completely alone, though I’m sure it will be even deeper once I’ve read the other volumes; and perhaps more to come? Rereading Kirkus’ review, I find that the last line expresses my own feelings exactly: “Fans of Robinson will wish the book were longer—and will surely look forward to the next.” What will happen to Lila and her son after John Ames, the gentle husband she calls “the old man,” dies? It feels imperative to know.
My goal for this year is to catch up on two other series I’ve been waiting to read till I had time to start at the beginning: Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels and Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle. Jeff VanderMeer published his whole Southern Reach trilogy last year, and somehow those three books seemed less daunting in their original paperback incarnations than in the gorgeous hardcover compendium FSG put out for the holidays, so I think I’ll stick with those. I’m also going to get to Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice and Ancillary Sword before the last part of the trilogy, Ancillary Mercy, is published in October.
After that? Maybe it will finally be my year of reading Proust. —L.M.
Laurie Muchnick is the fiction editor at Kirkus Reviews.