The third of Robinson’s three novels set in the fictional Plains town of Gilead, Iowa, Lila tells the story of a young girl, homeless and alone after years of roaming the countryside, who steps inside a small-town church and ignites a romance and a debate that will reshape her life. She becomes the wife of a minister, John Ames, and begins a new existence while trying to make sense of the life that preceded her newfound security.
Neglected as a toddler, Lila was rescued by Doll, a canny young drifter, and brought up by her in a hardscrabble childhood. Together they crafted a life on the run, living hand to mouth with nothing but their sisterly bond and a ragged blade to protect them. Despite bouts of petty violence and moments of desperation, their shared life was laced with moments of joy and love. When Lila arrives in Gilead, she struggles to reconcile the life of her makeshift family and their days of hardship with the gentle Christian worldview of her husband.
We have met Lila Dahl in both Gilead and Home, but though the Lila we see here may share her body, she isn’t the same woman. Then we saw her as others do; but now from within, from within her dark and feral past, her solitude in a world that has taught her to be afraid. Lila is a book of storms, and of the temporary peace that follows. It will endure.