Jack by Marilynne Robinson. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $27.
This is the fourth in a series that began with Marilynne Robinson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel set in Gilead, Iowa, but Jack stands alone as a truly remarkable work of fiction. It’s the story of a romance between Jack, the prodigal son of a Presbyterian minister, and Della, a Black high school teacher who is also the child of a minister. Robinson is that rare author who commands me to continue even when I think she is rambling on too much. I soon discover that a paragraph ago I missed one of the important twists in the story. Early in the novel, Della and Jack spend a night together in a cemetery. No sex, only an occasional arm on each other or a sleepy head on a shoulder. Soon I am in that cemetery with them, no matter how much I don’t want to be there. As Mark Athitakis, critic from the Chicago Sun-Times, says, “Marilynne Robinson is so powerful a writer that she can reshape how we read.” — Anita Johnson