Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Gilead - Marilynne Robinson

Title: Gilead
Author: Marilynne Robinson
Publication Date: 10/28/2004
Pages: 247
How I Found It: It's a well-known, popular novel.
Date Completed: 5/28/17

Summary: An elderly father writes to his young son about life, faith, and their small town of Gilead, Iowa. 

What I Thought: This Pulitzer Prize winner has long been on my list to read. I know so many have raved about it, including Barack Obama and Rachel Held Evans. Now, having read the book, I understand why.

It's literary fiction at it's finest. It's a beautiful book about family, faith, and friendship. It's set in the mid-1900s and told from the perspective of an elderly pastor, John Ames. Ames is purportedly writing to his young son, the blessing of a late-in-life marriage. 

One could certainly argue that not much actually happens over the course of the book. A fellow pastor and friend's long lost son returns home and Ames struggles with his presence in town and his relationship to both his own family and the Ames family. Beyond that, there is little actual plot. Rather, the book is about ordinary life, the beauty in mundanity, the reflexions of a man who has reached the end of his life and is assessing its virtue. 

Ames spends a lot of time talking about faith, religion, and his own spirituality. His pronouncements on those topics are beautiful and thought-provoking. It is at those moments that Robinson's prose truly shines. Her mastery of the written word is impressive and I think it would take many readings to fully appreciate this book. It is certainly one to which I plan to return. I also plan to read her other works, as this is the first book I have read by her.

If I had one complaint, it would be that things did move a bit too slowly for me at times. Also, Ames doesn't use a lot of proper nouns (i.e. the names of other characters like various relatives, ancestors, etc.), so it got confusing for me at points. It's definitely how a real person would talk to his son about the generations gone by, but I struggled a bit keeping track of who was who. This probably wasn't the best book to listen to as an audiobook. However, it was delightful company while I did yard work at my parents' new house. It definitely brought a level of intellectualism and beauty to the mundanity of chores I do not enjoy but do once a year because I love my mother (yep, that's the only reason why, Mom). I'll be hard pressed to find writing as beautiful and poignant to listen to next year. 

Rating: ★★★★☆
Will I Re-Read: Yes. Definitely.

A Reduced Review: Robinson's insights about family, faith, and friendship are made even more impressive by her stunning prose. 

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