Review of Marilynne Robinson’s “Gilead”
Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead is a wonderful story. In her award-winning novel, the protagonist John Ames is an elderly Presbyterian minister whose health is failing him. The story is told through a series of letters written to Ames’s young son. He sets out to tell him all the things a father would otherwise have had the chance to tell his son as he grows up. Ames doesn’t expect to have that opportunity.
There is no proportion in love. No constraint. And there need not be.
Ames writes to his son about Ames’s own family. About how Ames met the boy’s mother when Ames was old and she was young. About the townspeople of Gilead. About theology. And mostly about Jack Bowden.
We all do live in the ruins of the lives of other civilizations.
Gilead is a tale of hope, faith, hope lost, restoration, and people. Marilynne Robinson’s depicts the Americana of the Great Plains states in the mid-1900s, a simpler time that would not remain so for much longer. Gilead evoked in me a sentimentality that largely lies dormant. Marilynne Robinson weaves her story with even-handedness, poignancy, and sometimes humor. There’s a lot to think about while reading Gilead. It isn’t a book that’s going to allow you to mindlessly escape. It demands introspection and inquiry. It hasn’t yet left me alone since I’ve finished reading it. And I’m grateful for its persistence.
It’s been a long time since I’ve read a work of literature that I enjoyed more. Gilead is on my list of must-read books. I expect it was stand along side other great works that best and worst of our human natures. You can find Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead on Amazon.
Rating (out of 4 gavels):
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