At its heart, Housekeeping is a beautiful little story inflated with gorgeous big words. The focus in this novel is definitely on language. While the characters are good and the story certainly stands on its own, the language is what makes this novel striking. At times, the words Robinson uses are perfect; at other times, I think they're a stretch. Nevertheless, the book is lush with language.
What did not work for me at all was the narrative style. It's almost entirely exposition, light on dialogue, lacking scenes. And when I think exposition told from the first person, I think of the oral tale. And Housekeeping, with its fifty-cent words, sounds nothing like an oral tale. The story was very rural, yet the style was all professor. Did the language paint the setting brilliantly? Absolutely. But when it came to the characters and their story, I felt the language failed them. One can tack a lot of words onto a book like this—words like lush and intelligent—but it lacks some of the words that I feel are most important to a story—words like relatable and warm. Housekeeping paints a pretty picture, but it doesn't do much else.