Pulitzer Prize, Fiction, 2005
National Book Critics Circle Award, Fiction, 2005In 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
"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)
there is really no story here. it is a long letter that an old man is writing to his young son. it is a recap of some mostly uninteresting incidents in the father's life and is meant to teach the son after the father is gone. the father is a preacher and all the incidents described in the letter could be seen as teachable moments for a good and Christian life. I am giving up on the book halfway through . . . something I almost never do but I just couldn't continue the slog.
Marilynne Robinson is the most lyrical novelist working today. Pretty much all the action is interior--the musings of an old man in an old town. But the fineness of his perceptions and his gentle moral rigor are given full play and in prose that is fine and precise, like the best of scalpels.
I begin my review by saying this is not my typical read. I'm in a book club that chose Gilead for this month. So you might want to take my review in light of that.
Gilead was a easy read in my opinion. While it had some deep themes it was pretty straightforward in presenting them. I found the main character quite childish for someone of such advanced age. But I maybe that was he point? Having grown up in a preacher family and attended Bible college for one of my bachelors, I hope that this internal dialogue is for them but my experience doesn't bare this out. There is a sense of childishness, vulnerability and willingness to question himself that I've just not seen in someone at the similar time of life and situation. The story itself was a bit monotonous and I didn't care for the abrupt ending.
I know the book has won quite a few accolades but just wasn't great for me. Maybe you will be different?
Anne in Happy Valley
I could not get into this book. The premise bored me.
Did not care about the character who narrated the story.
Yes, he was good.
I don't think readers play that role. That's for authors and their editors.
The second time I listen to this book was even more magical than the first time. A fine story at the sentence level all the way up to the serious and human endeavors. Savor this book.
The narrator for "Gilead," Tim Jerome deserves as much credit and applause as possible for making this such a wonderful listening experience. I've recommended the listen many times now simply because Tim makes it such a fine piece of art. The story and writing are exceptional to begin with, perfectly understated. But really, for me, Tim's presentation brought it to life. Very well done!
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