In the fourth installment of Robinson's Gilead series, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author explores the star-crossed interracial romance of Jack Boughton and Della Miles in the years after World War II, when love like theirs was a crime. Jack's wayward nature doesn't help matters with Della's family, who expect better for her, a bright teacher and preacher's daughter.
From the outset Robinson reveals her subtle mastery of both character and language ... Striking too to read this novel in 2020, during a global pandemic and the protests of the Black Lives Matter movement: Robinson’s timeless prose, her Romeo and Juliet story, have an eerily timely ring. Jack and Della advance towards their love and retreat from it at the same time: the narrative pull of the book is in entering their troubled dance. Jack fits beautifully into the subtle weave of Robinson’s Gilead books;
that said, it could perfectly well be read on its own ... Her clear, fluid language is laced with the work of writers who have come before, with references to Shakespeare and Frost and Whitman ... Robinson reminds us that the world is ours to make.
... with the sublime Jack, she resumes and deepens her quest, extending it to the contemplation of race ... Robinson masterfully allows her protagonists to do the heavy lifting of the storytelling and employs deceptively simple dialogue as her primary tool. But make no mistake—there is richness and depth at every turn. The odds are stacked against this lovestruck couple. But Jack calls to mind what 1 Corinthians 13:7 says about love: It always protects, hopes, and perseveres.
The novel doesn’t quite live up to the high standards set by its predecessors. The dialogue is burdened with too much of the philosophical and theological debate ... Robinson is a wonderful, wise writer and there are lovely things here ... If it’s your first time in Gilead, start with any one of the other three novels, and leave Jack until last.