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Gilead (Gilead #1)

3.81 of 5 stars 3.81  ·  rating details  ·  41,440 ratings  ·  5,767 reviews
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 Iowa preacher and the grandson of a minister who, as a young man in Maine, saw a vision and came west to Kansas to fight for abolition. Reverend Ames tells a story of the sacred bonds between fathers and sons, which are t ...more
Audio, 0 pages
Published January 1st 2005 by Sound Library (first published 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. …moreI 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. (less)
Patsy McQuade I agree. I started Gilead and it was very confusing, so went to Home. Back to Gilead,,,much easier to understand. I'm looking forward to reading Lila.…moreI agree. I started Gilead and it was very confusing, so went to Home. Back to Gilead,,,much easier to understand. I'm looking forward to reading Lila.(less)
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Community Reviews

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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 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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
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 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
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
مرجان محمدی
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
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
Jan 12, 2012 Inder rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
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 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 02, 2009 Jed rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 21, 2008 Giedra rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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
Dale Harcombe
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
Apr 26, 2013 Tina rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Tina by: Angus
Original post from One More Page

A good friend has been pushing this book to me for a while now, saying that this is probably one book I will like. Note that this friend and I had different tastes in books, and it's only just recently that we started reading similar ones and it was mostly because of the book club picks. If this book was recommended to me say, early in 2011, I wouldn't have picked it up, but since I feel like I've been growing as a reader, I was actually quite excited to read this
Jennifer (aka EM)
Feb 23, 2010 Jennifer (aka EM) rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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

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
Washington Post
"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:
Most days, I didn’t enjoy reading Gilead, or look forward to resuming it—perhaps because the narrator is the character I warmed to last; but it builds to a powerful valediction—

A stranger might ask why there is a town here at all. Our own children might ask. And who could answer them? It was just a dogged little outpost in the sand hills, within striking distance of Kansas. That’s really all it was meant to be. It was a place John Brown and Jim Lane could fall back on when they needed to heal a
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,
This is a lovely and profound book. Yes, in some parts it seemed a bit slow, and the slowness was reinforced for me by the fact that I'm a slow reader. When you read at the torrid pace of about 5 or 6 pages a day, it's sometimes hard to stay focused. Anyway, what I loved about this book is the way it captures the significance of ordinary things--the way sunlight shines in a room; the power of a glance or a kind gesture; the fairly mundane things that tie a community together; the ways in which t ...more
I loved this book. The narrator’s voice is intimate and meditative. It feels so personal that one forgets that it is a piece of fiction and not a real memoir: an old, dying man writing a letter to his young son with a wise voice, but humane enough in his doubts and small – and big – desires.

It certainly is not a book for someone craving plot and action, but a philosophical meandering on life, death, love, parenthood and many of the other big questionings. Yet it does not feel heavy and self-rig
Gilead, first off, surprised me with its humor and its clarity, both of which kept me engaged, not to mention graceful, lofted wisdom (which I expected to encounter, of course) that never really seemed pedantic thanks to the narrator's earnestness re: his doubts re: pretty much everything other than the nature of faith (ie, silence filling an empty church at dawn). I appreciated the baptizing cats, descriptions of water and light, and an ash-cake communion in the foreground with a ruined church ...more
A poem of grace and redemption. I will read it over and over to gain a more profound sense of the deep currents that run beneath the seemingly ordinary surface of daily life. And though it's focused on a family of Protestant ministers in rural Iowa, seen through the eyes of an aged scion of that family, it's not at all a Christian book. This is a universal testament about the invisible threads that bind us to each other and to eternity.
1.5 stars - I didn't like it.

DNF'ing at 23%. This could be a case of picking up the wrong book at the wrong time, but I am definitely not liking it today. Written in the form of a letter from a father to his young son, it reads like a rambling stream of consciousness with random memories and stories interspersed with no trajectory, pattern or rhythm to latch on to. And seriously, dear authors of the world, I beseech you to please use quotation marks. They are your friends, and they will not bite
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21st Century Lite...: 5/15 Gilead (No Spoilers Thread) 24 42 May 20, 2015 07:08PM  
21st Century Lite...: 5/15 Gilead General Thread (Spoilers Allowed) 46 38 May 07, 2015 04:48PM  
2015 Reading Chal...: Gilead by Marilynne Robinson 3 10 Apr 25, 2015 07:47PM  
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Fiction parodies: Is nothing sacred - Parody of Gilead by Marilynne Robinson 1 28 Nov 25, 2014 06:01PM  
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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)
Housekeeping Home (Gilead, #2) Lila (Gilead, #3) When I Was a Child I Read Books The Death of Adam: Essays on Modern Thought

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