Review: Marilynne Robinson’s essays defend mysteries of life

THE GIVENNESS OF THINGS. By Marilynne Robinson. FSG. 292 pages. $26.Marilynne Robinson’s fiction tells American stories of wanderers in the wilderness — with a difference. Her drifters rarely find fresh identities when they cross a frontier. They are instead the spiritual vagrants that their biblical counterparts were. We don’t own the world, Robinson tells us, but are squatters and renters among the things we try to keep. Her novels (“Housekeeping,” “Gilead,” “Home” and “Lila”) — every one a masterpiece — visit a physical world whose hold is transient and apparitional. This notion carries over into “The Givenness of Things,” her new collection of essays. Readers of “Givenness” will find that the essays, like the novels, consistently ask why we have become “spiritual agorophobes.” Long ago, Robinson argued for “the re-mystification…

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