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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 childbirth, he has spent almost fifty years tending his flock, more than forty of them alone, before falling in love with Lila, thirty-five years his junior, and fathering a son. Knowing he will not see him grow up, he tries to tell his son the things he will need to know in life. He tells of the relationship he had with his father and grandfather, also preachers, and of the parting in anger, never reconciled, of his father and grandfather. As he writes, his anxieties for his wife and son’s future security are voiced. When his godson and namesake John Ames Boughton (Jake), the prodigal son of his closest friend, returns to Gilead, he also worries about what danger his young family may face from this irresponsible man. Robinson skilfully and slowly builds this story that is occasionally more like a diary or stream of consciousness than a letter. The patient reader is rewarded with a beautiful ending that is bound to bring a tear to the eye. It is no surprise that this novel is the Winner of both the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the Orange Prize for Fiction. I look forward to “Home” which tells the associated story of the Boughtons. Uplifting.
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 heartbreakingly genuine.
Read this one first, but also read "Home". It's many of the same events told from a different perspective.
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 as the old man in the book was writing to his young son: "Why do I love the thought of you old? That first twinge of arthritis in your knee is a thing I imagine with all the tenderness I felt when you showed me your loose tooth. Be diligent in your prayers, old man. I hope you will have seen more of the world than I ever got around to seeing---only myself to blame. And I hope you will have read some of my books. And God bless your eyes, and your hearing also, and of course your heart. I wish I could help you carry the weight of many years. But the Lord will have that fatherly satisfaction...There are a thousand thousand reasons to live this life, every one of them sufficient." I didn't see as much in the book as most critics did...but there was enough to cause me to be glad that I had read it.
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 be a turn-off for many people as it is very religious. There are a lot of references to scripture and hymns, and works of theology. But if you can get beyond your own bias towards mainstream religion and immerse yourself in the language, it is amazing how Robinson has managed to write a very quiet, contemplative book that is so provocative. This is an excellent book for discussion, although, admittedly, for those who do not enjoy thinking about life and the meaning of it all, it will be a slow read.
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 find that critique to be lazy reading. This is an old man writing a letter to his 7 year old son so he will know who his father was and what was important to him. It is stream of conciousness and does not follow a chronological path, but that is the point. If anyone sits down and writes a letter in their old age there will be tangents, stories remembered halfway thru, and thoughts on philosophy. Immediately after I finished it I called my father and told him to read it. No matter your religion (I'm agnostic) the Christianity reflected in this book is not trying to convert anyone. It is a belief of the old man and he is trying to untangle the contradictions and beliefs of his faith before he dies.