Born in Sandpoint, Idaho, novelist and nonfiction writer Marilynne Robinson received a BA from Brown University and a PhD from the University of Washington.
Her first novel, Housekeeping (1980), won the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. In a New York Times review, Anatole Broyard noted, “It’s as if, in writing it, she broke through the ordinary human condition with all its dissatisfactions, and achieved a kind of transfiguration.” In a 2008 interview with the Paris Review, Robinson addressed spirituality, a recurring theme in her work: “Religion is a framing mechanism. It is a language of orientation that presents itself as a series of questions. It talks about the arc of life and the quality of experience in ways that I’ve found fruitful to think about.”
Mother Country: Britain, the Welfare State and Nuclear Pollution (1989), her controversial nonfiction examination of the environmental impact of the British nuclear reprocessing plant at Sellafield, was a finalist for the National Book Award. The Death of Adam: Essays on Modern Thought (1998) collects her rigorous reassessments of major figures in poetry, science, and history; as critic Roger Kimball observed in the New York Times, “the inadequacy of fact—of brute fact, fact unredeemed by human meaning—is a leitmotif in Robinson’s thought.”
Her paired novels, Gilead (2004) and Home (2008), explore the intersections of two families in an Iowa town. Gilead won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize, and Home was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award.
Robinson teaches at the University of Iowa. She lives in Iowa City, where she has served as a deacon for the Congregational United Church of Christ to which she belongs.