In 1956, toward the end of Reverend John Ames's life, he begins a letter to
his young son, an account of himself and his forebears. Ames is the son of an
Iowan preacher and the grandson of a minister who, as a young man in Maine, saw
a vision of Christ bound in chains and came west to Kansas to fight for
abolition: He "preached men into the Civil War," then, at age fifty,
became a chaplain in the Union Army, losing his right eye in battle. Reverend
Ames writes to his son about the tension between his father--an ardent
pacifist--and his grandfather, whose pistol and bloody shirts, concealed in an
army blanket, may be relics from the fight between the abolitionists and those
settlers who wanted to vote Kansas into the union as a slave state. And he tells
a story of the sacred bonds between fathers and sons, which are tested in his
tender and strained relationship with his namesake, John Ames Boughton, his best
friend's wayward son.
This is also the tale of another remarkable vision--not a corporeal vision of
God but the vision of life as a wondrously strange creation. It tells how wisdom
was forged in Ames's soul during his solitary life, and how history lives
through generations, pervasively present even when betrayed and forgotten.
Gilead is the long-hoped-for second novel by one of our finest writers, a
hymn of praise and lamentation to the God-haunted existence that Reverend Ames
loves passionately, and from which he will soon part.
People - Jeremy Jackson
Robinson's 1981 debut, Housekeeping, was a perfect novel if ever there
was one, and her long-awaited second novel proves just as captivating . . .
Robinson's prose is lovely and wonderfully precise . . . Gilead is a gentle
journey that will be even better the second time you read it.
Newsday - Philip Connors
A major work.
The Charlotte Observer - Kathryn Schwille
A beautifully rendered story . . . full of penetrating intellect and
artful prose . . . that captures the splendors and pitfalls of being alive . . .
The world could use . . . more novels this wise and radiant.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch - Martin Northway
Compelling . . . Brilliant.
Wall Street Journal - Matt Murray
There is a lot of pleasure to be had in the novel's probing, thoughtful
Entertainment Weekly - Lisa Schwarzbaum
Magnificent . . . A psalm worthy of study, a sermon of the loveliest
profundity . . . [A] literary miracle . . . 'A'.
Time Out New York
A Great American Novel.
The Atlantic Monthly - Mona Simpson
Robinson's long-awaited second novel is an almost otherwordly book-and
reveals Robinson as a somewhat otherwordly figure herself . . . A work of
enormous integrity . . . Original and strong . . . A beautiful book of
St. Petersburg Times - Ellen Emry Heltzel
The mature and thoughtful work of a superb and thoughtful
Elle - Lisa Shea
An inspired work from a writer whose sensibility seems steeped in holy
O, The Oprah Magazine
Quietly powerful [and] moving.
Michael Dirda, The Washington Post
Marilynne Robinson draws on all of these associations in her new novel, which --
let's say this right now -- is so serenely beautiful, and written in a prose so
gravely measured and thoughtful, that one feels touched with grace just to read
it. Gilead possesses the quiet ineluctable perfection of Flaubert's A Simple
Heart as well as the moral and emotional complexity of Robert Frost's deepest
poetry. There's nothing flashy in these pages, and yet one regularly pauses to
reread sentences, sometimes for their beauty, sometimes for their truth
Adulthood is a wonderful thing, and brief. You must be sure to enjoy it
while it lasts.
James Wood, The New York Times
Gilead is a beautiful work -- demanding, grave and lucid -- and is, if anything,
more out of time than Robinson's book of essays, suffused as it is with a
Protestant bareness that sometimes recalls George Herbert (who is alluded to
several times, along with John Donne) and sometimes the American religious
spirit that produced Congregationalism and 19th-century Transcendentalism and
those bareback religious riders Emerson, Thoreau and Melville.
Robinson's prose is beautiful, shimmering and precise; the
revelations are subtle but never muted when they come, and the careful telling
carries the breath of suspense....Many writers try to capture life's universals of strength, struggle,
joy and forgiveness-but Robinson truly succeeds in what is destined to become
her second classic.
Robinson returns with a second
novel that, however quiet in tone and however delicate of step, will do no less
than tell the story of America-and break your heart.....This long story
of daily life in deep Middle America-addressed to an unknown and doubting
future-is never in the slightest way parochial or small, but instead it evokes
on the pulse the richest imaginable identifying truths of what America
was. Robinson has composed, with its cascading perfections of symbols, a novel as
big as a nation, as quiet as thought, and moving as prayer. Matchless and
Donna Seaman, Booklist
Robinson's first book, Housekeeping (1981), remains an astonishment, leading to
high expectations for her longed-for second novel, which is, joyfully, a work of
profound beauty and wonder....Millennia of philosophical musings and a century of
American history are refracted through the prism of Robinson's exquisite and
uplifting novel as she illuminates the heart of a mystic, poet, and humanist.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by Cloggie Downunder Uplifting Gilead is the second novel by American author Marilynne Robinson. It is 1956, in Gilead, Iowa, and John Ames, a seventy-six year-old preacher with heart failure, is writing a letter to his young son. After losing his first wife and daughter in... Read More
Rated of 5
by NikkiD I love, love, love this book! This is a book that was written to be savored! The language is nothing short of gorgeous. "Gilead" explores the relationships between fathers and sons from many angles, highlighting tenderness and pain in a way that seems... Read More
Rated of 5
by bob Interesting...Different...'Read-worthy' Another one of those books that when I finished, all I could think was 'Interesting...Different.' While I was reading it I kept thinking "Why am I reading this?” I wanted to quit several times, but then I would come across passages like this one... Read More
Rated of 5
by Susan The quiet book This book is unusual in that it has a voice unlike anything I have read in contemporary fiction. The writing is exceptional. If not for anything else, this book should be read for the honesty of the writing. I am not surprised that this book would... Read More
Rated of 5
by Laura Soul-opening book I was a little unsure of this book since it got so many horrible reader reviews on B&N.com, but the critics were raving and it won the Pulizter Prize so I gave it a try. Many of the reades said "it has no plot and is just a long sermon/essay" I... Read More
Background Information: The Biblical Gilead is a region near the Jordan River which is
described as having plants with healing properties. According to some
sources, the Hebrew origin of the word simply means 'rocky area.' -
which begs the question whether it makes an ironic or symbolically
accurate title for Robinson's novel? "Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then is
not the health of the daughter of my people recovered?" Jeremiah 8:22
A Man Called Intrepid author dies aged 89(Dec 03 2013) William Stevenson, a journalist and author who drew on his close ties with intelligence sources to write two best-selling books in the 1970s, A Man Called...