More on Housekeeping and EPJ
There's much more to say about _Housekeeping_, including the particular ways that the novel begins to wander and drift about, approximately from chapter seven until the end. Because the material world can no longer answer the questions Ruth poses in its directions, much less satisfy her needs and longings for it, some other world has to be found. This is the route of transfiguration, a spiritual or religious or meditative path. (This may be why the novel moves out of narrative into meditation.) The novel knows, and Marilynne Robinson knows, perfectly well that most of us are Lucille and not Ruth: i.e., we're more or less satisfied with the material world as given to us, and we want the usual things: money, a career, someone to love and/or to love us. But somewhere in us--this is Ruth's appeal--there is a part of our selves that is unsatisfied, permanently unsatisfied, with all this, that wants to be free of it. We feel our own weirdness and don't want to be a part of the human community that is satisfied by what it can obtain at Circuit City. Some small part of us wants the essences; we become neo-Platonists.
I think Marilynne Robinson's long silence after _Housekeeping_ had to do with the fact that she couldn't see a way to make an advance on what I'd call the novel of meditation. She tried it (I heard her read from a novel she discarded) but it didn't work. What she turned to were novels of overt religious thought in a context of American history and racial politics.
The transition from MR to Edward P. Jones may seem difficult but won't be if you notice how EPJ's stories often have to do with losing direction, wandering, getting lost, losing something precious to you, a general disorientation associated with his characters' experiences of their lives. Again, the passion in the stories is not based on Eros but on something else. Does anyone want to be the enabler next week, btw?