Gail's Reviews > Gilead

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
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Nov 20, 09

bookshelves: contemporary-fiction, classics
Read in November, 2009

This book is beautiful. Stark, beautiful and poetic.

I'll admit, I almost threw in the towel about 75 pages in. The pace is slow and it's a novel that needs to (DESERVES to) have each sentence mulled over. But along the way, the little literary gems of Gilead (the sentences, the paragraphs, the thoughts of its narrator, John Ames, an ailing minister writing his testimony (Gilead means 'hill of testimony' in the Bible) to his young son) make you feel like you've hit a gold mine in novel form.

Admittedly, these gems I speak of are tied strongly to Ames' (ie, Robinson's) viewpoints on Christianity. So while I think anyone has much to take away from these pages, those of us who are believing Christians perhaps can take away most.

I was pleasantly surprised by much I felt this way about the book when I didn't exactly expect to. So often an author's take on Christianity is baked into his/her's book title or the back jacket. And theirs are the books that preach. A lot. Too often, in an angry or judgmental tone. These are the books that can be a turn off to me.

So I found it interesting that, from the words of a fictional preacher, I could feel so moved by his thoughts on faith without exactly feeling like I was being preached to.

I know how much I love a book by the number of pages with little dog-earred corners. It's a bad habit of mind to do this, turn down a page when I find there's some sentiment on it I want to remember. There are dozens in this book, so that's saying something. Here were a few that resonated so much with me:

"I must have told them a thousand times that unbelief is possible. And they are attracted to it by the very books that tell them what a misery it is. And they want me to defend religion, and they want me to give them "proofs". I just won't do it. It only confirms them in their skepticism. Because nothing true can be said about God from a posture of defense."

"The Lord gave you a mind so that you would make honest use of it. I'm saying you must be sure that the doubts and questions are your own, not, so to speak, the mustache and walking stick that happens to be the fashion of any particular moment."

"It is one of the best traits of good people that they love where they pity. ...So they get themselves drawn into situations that are harmful to them. ... I have always had trouble finding a way to caution against it. Since it is, in a word, Christlike."


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Jonathan Oh my LORD. (Lit'rally.) Thou shalt not be sorry.


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