How unlike me to be reading something that was published within the last ten years. Home, by Marilyn Robinson (2005) is about a family coming to grips with the return of a problem child. Robert Boughton was the Presbyterian minister of Gilead, Iowa. He raised a family of eight children, all of whom but one became successful, upstanding citizens. The black sheep, Jack, left town twenty years earlier after a youthful descent into alcoholism, petty crime, and a scandal with a local girl. No one has seen him since.
Now (the "now" of this novel is the 1960s) Robert Boughton is nearing the end of his life and the youngest child of the family, Glory, comes home to look after him. Glory was a respectable English teacher, but she has a secret she'd rather not share with her father. Then Jack, who hasn't been seen for twenty years, writes to say that he will be coming home as well.
What follows is Jack's oh-so tentative return to his home. The relationship between Glory, Jack, and Boughton is fragile. They are carefully polite and engage in a figurative dance in which everybody avoids expressing their feelings. Eventually, the pain that all three characters have felt comes to the surface.
Also, we are led to wonder why Jack turned out the way he did. He was raised in a loving family, but chose to isolate himself from them. He's sensitive and intelligent, and he's not a bad person, but he was a criminal. Why do some children turn wayward?
I enjoyed this novel because the writing is so sensitive. Marilyn Robinson is a master of depicting the subtlties of human relationships.