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Gilead (Gilead #1)

3.83  ·  Rating Details  ·  49,498 Ratings  ·  6,807 Reviews
Twenty-four years after her first novel, Housekeeping, Marilynne Robinson returns with an intimate tale of three generations from the Civil War to the twentieth century: a story about fathers and sons and the spiritual battles that still rage at America's heart. Writing in the tradition of Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman, Marilynne Robinson's beautiful, spare, and spiritu
Paperback, 247 pages
Published January 10th 2006 by Picador (first published October 28th 2004)
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Kerilyn I read Lila, then Home, and am now reading Gilead. This is not the way they were written, but I can't imagine it any other way.
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May 09, 2007 Greg rated it it was amazing
It often feels as if the contemporary literary scene has internalized Anna Karenina’s dictum on the nature of happiness—that it is not idiosyncratic, with the implication that it is not worth the kind of careful attention that literature applies to its subjects. We need look no further than our own lives to recognize the problem we’ll encounter if we preoccupy ourselves with the Tolstoyan “unhappy family” at the expense of the happy ones. Asked about our defining or most enlightening moments, mo ...more
Oct 12, 2007 Jessica rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: heathens
This book is amazing. I can't believe those frikkin twits didn't give Marilynne Robinson the Pulitzer for this..... oh wait, they did. Well, I can't believe they didn't give her two!

Seriously, you are probably thinking, "I've heard this book takes the form of an elderly, angina-stricken preacher in Iowa's long, Lord-laden letter to his young son about how beautiful the world is. I'm sure it's all very nice for some people, but I am way too big of a jerk to enjoy something like that."

Well, let me
Sep 03, 2014 William1 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, us, 21-ce
This novel reminds me--with its beautifully spare prose and the bleak stoicism of its characters--of three books: Per Petterson's Out Stealing Horses, Willa Cather's My Ántonia, and Martin Amis's House of Meetings. The writing is conversational in tone, which is enormously hard to do, though it looks easy, and beautifully compressed.

Gilead is the story of a Protestant pastor, the Reverent Ames, who, in the midwestern town of Gilead of about 1950 or so, writes to his then seven-year-old son. The
Jan 06, 2009 brian rated it really liked it
Recommended to brian by: DFJ
paul schrader called his book on the films of bresson, ozu, and dreyer transcendental style in film. sorry, mr. schrader, for reducing your book and theory to a one-liner, but the transcendental style goes something like this: the intentional evenness and flatness (both visually and dramatically) of these films work to create a ‘lifting’ or revelation at the end, such as one may receive after hours of intense prayer, study, or meditation.

as much as a book can fit within this category, i think G
Dec 03, 2013 Jason rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My 4 year old son is going to die...sometime in the future, like me--wishfully long after me--and we'll have no more time to talk. We should hopefully grow old together, but we'll grow old together as men. Yes, we'll always be father and son, but for the most part when we talk and share, he will be a man. What should I tell him now, as a boy? He's too young to remember, but I have so many things I want to say, to teach, to protect... There are things I want to tell him that are important now, th ...more
Feb 05, 2009 J rated it it was amazing
This is not a review. I wrote something that aspired to be a review but fell short. In the end all you really need to know is that I loved it. I finished it standing in line at the grocery with tears running down my face because it was that beautiful. It’s the ruminations of a man at the end of his life, it’s confession, it’s revelation, it’s a parable in a parable. It’s hopeful. Read it.

I found this quote written on a scrap of something in my purse. "I know more than I know and must learn it fr
Mar 06, 2008 Kj rated it it was ok
Dear Son:
The Too-Little-Too-Late Dilemma of Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead

It’s deceptively tempting to approach a book like Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead, and see only the main character’s theological musings. After all, in a novel about an old man reminiscing about faith and family, there’s a plethora of weighty spiritual content; everything from careful exegesis of Genesis 22 to references to Karl Barth’s Epistle to the Romans. Needless to say, this is no simple “I remember when…” fable of love an
Jan 18, 2013 Sparrow marked it as abandoned  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Sparrow by: Pulitzer
I believe the audio of this book is read by Santa Claus, so that is nice. Not nice enough for me to finish it, though. I tried the printed copy and the audio, and while I made it slightly farther in the audio, I just can’t do it. I think listening to this in the car creates a severe hazard because of the imminent danger of me falling asleep.

Having read Olive Kitteridge and this, I’ve come to the conclusion that the Pulitzer committee is looking for books about bumbling old people whose kids may
I am devastated by how much I despised this novel. It was one of the most uninspired stories about Christianity, forgiveness and familial bonds I have ever read.

I can't help but wonder if this is the first plotless novel to win a Pulitzer. I'll be on the look out. The framework of the "story" is a dying minister writing in his diary presumably for his now 7 year old son to read after his death. The first person father writing to his son narrative was horrid. I felt like the entire book was one
Lynne King
I am so disappointed with this book. Having said that, I agree with all the reviews written about this highly acclaimed work stating, for example, that 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.

So serenely beautiful, and written in a prose so gravely measured and thoughtful, that one feels touched with grace just to read it…A triumph of tone and imagination [and a]
Jun 03, 2009 Sandi rated it it was amazing
Forget your theology books and forget your "Christian Fiction". If you really want to get inside the head of someone with a deep, abiding faith in God, you must read "Gilead". Through the story of Rev. John Ames, Marilynne Robinson eloquently expresses so many of the ideas I have had about Christianity and state some difficult theological concepts in easy to understand words. And, she does it without ever getting cheesy or preachy. Reading this book is like floating in a pool on a warm summer da ...more
Jess ❈Harbinger of Blood-Soaked Rainbows❈

Read a book that won the Pulitzer Prize.

3.5 stars rounded up

Ok ya'll, this review is gonna get personal. It's the only review I think I can write right now, and this book gives me the perfect platform to do it. If you have a problem with personal reviews, don't read it I don't give a damn.

There are a thousand thousand reasons to live this life, every one of them sufficient.

This was my book club's selection for May. I've kind of been in a reading slump the past few months and just haven't been
Apr 12, 2015 Maxwell rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: i-own-it, 2015
It's not often that I find a book that can hold my attention enough to read it in one day. Gilead is a book that I'm conflicted over having read so speedily, as I couldn't stop reading, while at the same time wanted to savor and absorb more slowly every thought and prayer and beautiful moment it held.

I understand the praise for this book. And I understand when people say that in fifty or one hundred years people will still be reading this book and finding something deeply human in it.

Gilead is
مرجان محمدی
Sep 05, 2013 مرجان محمدی rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
دیشب به تو گفتم ممکن است روزی بروم، تو گفتی کجا، من گفتم پیش خدا، تو گفتی چرا، گفتم چون پیر شده ام، گفتی فکر نمی کنم پیر شده باشی و دستت را در دستم گذاشتی و گفتی، خیلی پیر نیستی

گیلیاد دومین رمان مریلین رابینسون است که در سال 2004 منتشر شد. این رمان در سال 2005 جایزه پولیتزر و کانون منتقدان کتاب ملی را از آن خود کرد. گیلیاد، نامه های کشیشی پیر است که در شهر کوچک گیلیاد در آیووا زندگی می کند و می داند که به زودی به علت بیماری قلبی خواهد مرد. او این نامه ها را برای پسرش می نویسد و در آن داستان زندگ
Violet wells
John Ames is a pastor in the forsaken town of Gilead. Ames, after losing his first wife and child to a difficult labour, has remarried late in life to a much younger woman and so at the ripe old age of seventy six has a very young son who he realises he will not see grow to manhood. So at the end of his life he is writing what he believes to be a kind of epistle to the beauty of God’s world for his young son. He is attempting to bestow grace on his son. He gives him advice – “I would advise you ...more
Jan 12, 2012 Inder rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Humanity
Recommended to Inder by: Elizabeth
Yes, I have now read this THREE times. That should really speak for itself.

12/1/07 I've been thinking and thinking about this book, so I find myself coming back to this review.

The basic plot (such as it is - this is a character driven book in the most basic sense): An old preacher finds out that he is dying, and writes a journal/memoir to his seven year old son.

There are a couple of breathtaking scenes in the book, that have stuck with me. The narrator remembers a tim
Aug 28, 2015 David rated it really liked it
Recommended to David by: Alisa
First of all, I have some disclaiming to do. I do not believe in God, not even in the most hazy, nondenominational sense of an impersonal 'force' that vouchsafes existence. I was raised Catholic (halfheartedly)—by which I mean that I was sent to Catholic school, but my parents were never demonstratively or actively Catholic. They only rarely attended church (precipitated, I think, by a sense of lapsed duty), they never prayed, to my knowledge, and they mostly refrained from any mention of gods o ...more
Nov 05, 2008 Paula rated it did not like it
Ponderous. That's "Gilead" in a word. It's supposed to be the slow, insightful reflections of an old preacher writing a letter about his life to his son. Because, you see, the preacher is going to die soon. Actually, most of the book is so slow you feel like he's dying right then and there. Or at least, you wish he would drop dead, because then the book would be over. Keeling over might even be an improvement, since then something would happen.

My guess is that after twenty years of not writing,
Calvin says somewhere that each of us is an actor on a stage and God is the audience.

Gilead is a meditation on life, faith and fatherhood. It is the goodbye letter from a father to a son – a father who is 77 and whose son is only seven – and the father’s desire to leave some kind of legacy for his young son because he knows he won’t be there to see him grow up.

Looking back on his life, the Reverend John Ames remembers incidents small and big which have constituted his life. He reminisces about
With race again in the news from the USA (view spoiler) it seems worth while returning to Marilynne Robinson's book because beneath the gentle stream of consciousness ramblings of an elderly preacher who is approaching death something challenging hides.

Although set in 1956 the narrator's reflections flicker back and forth from the time of his grandfather - a pastor active in the aboliti
Aleathia Drehmer
Aug 03, 2008 Aleathia Drehmer rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: people looking for accountability in themselves
Sometimes we read books that were meant for certain times in our lives though we don't know that when we pick them up. I started reading "Gilead" simply because it was on the Pulitzer list and for no other reason. I knew nothing about it. I like reading books blind sometimes. It makes their impact that much more to savor.

I am not a church going woman. I think we all know that by now. I have been a Buddhist for many years...over 10, though that absolves me of nothing, just makes me responsible to
Jennifer (aka EM)
Feb 23, 2010 Jennifer (aka EM) rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone who has struggled with faith and landed on either side of the chasm
Faith gets such a bad rap these days. The most egregiously distorted personifications of it stand as paragons: Sarah Palin's hypocritical, dangerous and politicized evangelism; Pat Robertson's venomous, hateful, racist diatribes. Et cetera.

At the foundation of these demonstrations of faith is a lack of any kind of sensible, coherent, thought-through logic. The Palins and Robertsons of the world--and their brand of religious belief and practice--are easily dismissed because the presentation of it
What you have here is a 76 year old minister from Iowa, writing a journal, or long letter, to his 7 year old son. Rev. Ames is dying, so he's afraid his son won't remember him, thus the letter. The Rev. comes from a long line of preachers, so the novel is religious in nature, but not overly so. It's really a story about family and family relationships, and time. There were some things I didn't like, some loose ends that are probably addressed in the sequels. But the writing is so good that it ca ...more
Washington Post
Jan 09, 2014 Washington Post rated it it was amazing
"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.

Michael Dirda reviewed this profound and moving novel for us:
Dale Harcombe
Mar 01, 2015 Dale Harcombe rated it it was amazing
Shelves: re-reading
I adored this book as I have Marilynne Robinson's others.
Review of re-reading will follow shortly.
I’m not a great re-reader of books. But I needed something I could sink into, enjoy and restore my equilibrium. Having read this book initially several years ago I knew Gilead would be a perfect choice. I loved it from the start. John Ames, an elderly preacher, is writing to his young son, telling him all those things he will not be around to tell him later. Along the way he not only reveals his own
Feb 02, 2009 Jed rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone in the world
Recommended to Jed by: Dawn Brimley, Lisa Clark
I don't like choosing favorites. I don't think I should be compelled to announce with any finality what is my favorite of anything. It's just too superlative for someone as indecisive as I am.

But if someone held a gun to my head and said they'd shoot me if I didn't name my favorite book in the world, my first thought would be Gilead. Since the first time I read it a few years ago, it has remained in me the way no other compilation of words ever has. To find God in a book-- and in such rich abund
Jan 25, 2015 Monique rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Monique by: Angus

Originally posted here.

Beautiful. Poignant. Heartrending. Melancholic. Intimate. Overwhelmingly touching. Spiritually uplifting. There is a ton of adjectives I could ascribe to Gilead, but I think these should suffice.


Gilead is a fictional town in Iowa where Reverend John Ames, now in the twilight of his years, has been a pastor for the larger part of his life. As he feels that he has nearly come to the end of his life’s journey, he writes a series of journal entries meant as a long letter fo
Apr 21, 2008 Giedra rated it really liked it
Recommended to Giedra by: Carrie Neal
Shelves: book-club
My book club read this book right before I joined the club. Most of the members hated it, and at many subsequent book club discussions, books were compared to Gilead as, "well, at least it was easier to read than Gilead, etc." After several months of hearing about this book, I decided I needed to read this book for myself. (Perhaps to get more insight into my fellow book club members!)

Well, I liked the book a LOT. I was very surprised to find that it's a pretty slim book--from the way my friends
Dec 01, 2015 April rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
DISCLAIMER - My friend and I decided to do a book swap where we lent each other one of our favourite books (I gave him the Knife of Never Letting Go) and he gave me this one!

To be honest, I'm so glad that's over and I can't believe I made it through the entire thing. I can see why people love this book, but it just really isn't for me, especially because I'm an atheist. I can appreciate it though but I just found it to be really slow and boring and preachy and just not my thing.
Sep 15, 2015 Carolyn rated it really liked it
John Ames is a protestant minister in the small town of Gilead in Kansas in the 1950s. He is 76 and has a failing heart so he is writing a letter to his young son who he knows will grow up without him. John is a good man who has led a good life. His is not a bible bashing ministry but a gentle one where people come first and he is much loved by his congregation. Losing his first wife and child to childbirth when he was young, he has lived alone for many years until his late sixties when a young ...more
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21st Century Lite...: 5/15 Gilead (No Spoilers Thread) 35 73 Jan 23, 2016 04:45PM  
people 25 896 Nov 20, 2015 07:59AM  
2015 Reading Chal...: Gilead, Home, Lila by Marilynne Robinson 3 11 Oct 26, 2015 08:26AM  
Literatura cristiana: Literatura cristiana en inglés 2 2 Aug 18, 2015 03:17AM  
2016 Reading Chal...: Gilead 2 14 Jul 18, 2015 11:34AM  
Eclectic Readers: Episode 1: Gilead 4 13 Jul 14, 2015 02:19PM  
2016 Reading Chal...: Gilead 1 18 Jun 10, 2015 11:30AM  
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Her 1980 novel, Housekeeping, won a Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award for best first novel and was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

Her second novel, Gilead, was acclaimed by critics and received the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, the 2004 National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction, and the 2005 Ambassador Book Award.

Her third novel, Home, was published in 2008 and was nominated f
More about Marilynne Robinson...

Other Books in the Series

Gilead (3 books)
  • Home (Gilead, #2)
  • Lila (Gilead, #3)

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“This is an interesting planet. It deserves all the attention you can give it.” 1211 likes
“Sometimes I have loved the peacefulness of an ordinary Sunday. It is like standing in a newly planted garden after a warm rain. You can feel the silent and invisible life.” 245 likes
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