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Gilead | [Marilynne Robinson]

Gilead

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 50, became a chaplain in the Union Army, losing his right eye in battle.
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Publisher's Summary

Pulitzer Prize, Fiction, 2005

National Book Critics Circle Award, Fiction, 2005

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 50, 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.

©2004 Marilynne Robinson; (P)2005 BBC Audiobooks America, Published by Audio Renaissance, a division of Holtzbrinck Publishers, LLC

What the Critics Say

"Gilead is a beautiful work: demanding, grave, and lucid...Robinson's words have a spiritual force that's very rare in contemporary fiction." (The New York Times Book Review)
"The long wait has been worth it....Robinson's prose is beautiful, shimmering, and precise....Destined to become her second classic." (Publishers Weekly)
"[Gilead] is so serenely beautiful, and written in a prose so gravely measured and thoughtful, that one feels touched with grace just to read it." (The Washington Post Book World)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.6 (835 )
5 star
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Overall
3.8 (342 )
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Story
4.1 (341 )
5 star
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Performance
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  •  
    Porter Atlanta, GA, United States 06-03-07
    Porter Atlanta, GA, United States 06-03-07 Member Since 2006
    HELPFUL VOTES
    70
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    6
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    "Good book, wrong reader"

    This is a case in which a major book's excellence is rendered all but unlistenable by a dreadfully cast reader. Tim Jerome handles this work in a very old-fashioned format, musty and nostalgic, perfect for Dickens, not for the intelligent stance of a contemporary intellience like Robinson. After a few minutes, the sweetness of this approach goes sickly, the prose starts to sound like Sunday School literature (which is too much in the context of a minister's tale) -- the listener is left trying to search out the smart cadences and ruminative depths that make Robinson's work important. It's too bad. But be sure to note that my ranking here isn't a negative comment about Robinson's literary achievement, but about the audiobook's casting.

    10 of 12 people found this review helpful
  •  
    S. Stambler LOS ANGELES 05-16-10
    S. Stambler LOS ANGELES 05-16-10 Member Since 2013

    A professor at Dodge College, I teach Film Music. I spent 33 years in the movie business before teaching. I LOVE books and my girls. Ta-Da!

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Magical."

    Be prepared to get transported into the world of an old man writing a very long love letter to his son. Tim Jerome's narration is heavenly. This isn't an action piece ,so be warned. It is a gift of superb writing and honest emotion. How the author brought this character to life must have been an act of divine love. I don't know how to characterize this book, other than feeling like you want the main character to be sending you the letter he's written to his son.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Bethann Kingston, Ontario, Canada 10-18-09
    Bethann Kingston, Ontario, Canada 10-18-09 Member Since 2015
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Remarkably well-crafted, beautifully narrated!"

    This is both a fantastic book in and of itself, but it is also a thoroughly well-done audiobook. The narrator's voice is so rich and melodious! I would marry a 67 year old too, if he spoke like Tim Jerome! Robinson's story is slow, but wonderful. The characters, especially the central one, are very vivid and so very human. Highly recommended!

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jesse Acton, MA, USA 05-13-06
    Jesse Acton, MA, USA 05-13-06
    HELPFUL VOTES
    3
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    "Wonderful, but slow and quiet"

    John Ames is dying, and this book is his letter to his 7 year old son. An amazing exploration of father/son relationships and one preacher's existential crisis.

    This is not a thriller, this is a careful exposition of a time, a place, a man's life, and a preacher's perspectivve on the changing world around him.

    Very valuable, very glad I read it.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Barbara A. Rall Westfield, NJ 07-19-05
    Barbara A. Rall Westfield, NJ 07-19-05 Member Since 2009

    adoptionmsw

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Gilead"

    I found this book engrossing. It seemed to me the reader was perfectly suited to the personality of the narrator. The flashbacks to tales of the underground railway and the difficulties of a present day mixed marriage speak to how far the country has come in regard to race relations. Ms. Robinson has conjured up a wonderful narrator in John Ames. His feelings for his wife and son as well as for his church and town are palpable. This was a wonderful book!

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Larry 07-09-12
    Larry 07-09-12
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    Story
    "This book is over-rated"
    This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

    People who are into spiritual readings might like this book


    What was the most interesting aspect of this story? The least interesting?

    The story took forever to develop and then what did develop was of no interest to me.


    Would you be willing to try another one of Tim Jerome’s performances?

    The reader was uninspiring, but I would not judge him on the basis of this book since the story was so boring


    Any additional comments?

    I believe this book received several literary awards and so has been on my "to read" list for a long time. On the basis of it's acclaim, I finished the entire book. Had I not paid for the book, I would have not have finished reading it. VERY disappointing. Goes to show that like the Academy Awards, literary awards do not always coincide with my concept of good.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    kathy 01-08-12
    kathy 01-08-12
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Masterful!"
    Would you listen to Gilead again? Why?

    I have already planned on doing so. As with her previous novel, Marilynne Robinson has captured such wonderful selections of the english language to tell this story that it reguires much more than one pass. Perhaps twice for the masterful story line, twice for the characterization, and innumerable for the glorious language she chooses. I will keep it on my


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Gilead?

    I especially enjoyed the times that the main character described the love and appreciation he had for his son. What child wouldn't want to hear those remarks from their parent?


    What does Tim Jerome bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    Tim Jerome WAS the Reverend, our main character. His intonations and expert use of his voice brought this story to life. Excellent job.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    There were so many parts I adored but I can point clearly to the telling of the trip to the graveyard and meeting the woman on the farm. It was greatly moving to me.


    Any additional comments?

    I will keep reading this work as I did Ms. Robinson's first work, Housekeeping. Both of them are glorious works.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    lucy gilbert 07-26-10
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Gilead"

    I loved the book and was uncertain whether to risk listening to the audio version, but was surprised that it was as magical and as deeply moving.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Terry New York, NY, USA 02-18-08
    Terry New York, NY, USA 02-18-08
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
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    "Gilead"

    Beautiful story, and beautifully written.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    P Tucson, AZ, USA 08-23-06
    P Tucson, AZ, USA 08-23-06
    HELPFUL VOTES
    11
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    "Beautiful!"

    When a friend recommended this book to me I immediately downloaded it. I loved every minute of it and couldn't wait to see how it ended. I have in turn recommended it to my friends!

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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