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 Iowa preacher and the grandson of a minister who, as a young man in Maine, saw a vision and came west to Kansas to fight for abolition. Reverend Ames tells a story of the sacred bonds between fathers and sons, which are tested in his tender and strained relationship with his best friend's wayward son. Gilead is the long-hoped-for second novel by one of our finest writers, ...
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 Iowa preacher and the grandson of a minister who, as a young man in Maine, saw a vision and came west to Kansas to fight for abolition. Reverend Ames tells a story of the sacred bonds between fathers and sons, which are tested in his tender and strained relationship with his best friend's wayward son. 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.
This book is an endurance test; the ramblings of a 76-year old preacher man, enlivened occasionally by small burps of humor or crankiness, culminating in a final chapter that delivers no major aha-moments, it felt like hard, but boring work. I read the whole thing because the reviews had been so positive, but now
I kind of would like my hours back!
Jan 27, 2011
I loved this book the first time I read five years ago, and loved it just as much rereading it recently. Have recommnded it and the author to everyone I know.
Aug 23, 2009
Marilynne Robinson's "Gilead" is a beautiful, surprising work. The novel's structure is that of a letter written by an aging rural pastor to his young son. He knows he will be passing away before his son grows up, and wishes to write him his "begats," all those things which he would have imparted to his son as he grew up, had he lived. Throughout the novel, the narrator discusses his family's somewhat fraught political and religious history, and the schisms between fathers and sons that preceded him. Through these stories he tries his best to impart a sense of his faith and love to his young son, whom he holds so dear.
However, sepulchral this is not. This is a rumination on joy, faith, and recognizing the sweet beauty of living. Savor the words in this novel rather than devouring or rushing through them. Give yourself the time and opportunity to be moved by Robinson's masterly depiction of real, pulsing, beating-in-the-arteries humanity. I am very glad that I did, because it's a rare book that can impart both a visceral sense of calm and a churning impulse to experience life.
Oct 23, 2008
Wonderful heartfelt read
I picked this book when I learned the author had written another book (Home) which is a companion book to Gliead. This story is well-written and is basically a letter written to a young son, whose father is dying and will not be there as the boy grows up. Not sentimental, but plain beautiful words.
Sep 3, 2007
Across the Great Divide
The narrator of Marilynne Robinson's Gilead is a Congregationalist minister, and the novel is a sustained monologue from father to young son. The author writes in an austere Midwestern plainsong. The cleavage beween parent and child is evident, which mirrors the larger conflict of the Civil War, and the anti-slavery movement. The novel is compelling in both the apparent simplicity of its prose and its moral complexity, though the use of the first person may cause the reader's attention to flag a bit, especially if one is accustomed to the multivocal narratives of modernist and postmodernist fiction.
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