Perhaps it is Robinson’s profoundly Calvinist sense of the all-sufficiency of Grace, the ultimate irrelevancy of anything we might call merit, that permits her to pull off what amounts to a great artistic miracle: a story unabashedly “about” salvation in which no one “gets saved.” There is nothing in this novel that qualifies as “redemption” of the kind we have come to expect in the 109-page screenplay. No cathartic revelation that leaves the hero better for it, no surprising reversal in which saints are shown to be sinners and sinners saints. Nobody deciding at the last minute not to get on that plane. Yes, Glory has something of an epiphany at the end, but it takes no epiphany on the reader’s part to see the uneasy mix of beatitude and desperation in what she feels. Only a Christian of uncommon mettle could write a novel so untainted by the bastardized tropes of Christian culture. It is as if Robinson told us the Nativity story without once evoking Christmas. In other words, it is as if we were actually—and unremarkably—just there.
Hat tip: more than 95 theses