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(Gilead #1)

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  78,121 ratings  ·  10,282 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 USA (first published October 28th 2004)
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مرجان محمدی Housekeeping has its own independant place among the other 3s, and it is for sure as beautiful as Gilead for its emotional narator telling us how the …moreHousekeeping has its own independant place among the other 3s, and it is for sure as beautiful as Gilead for its emotional narator telling us how the world can be seen, as Home for its picture of how sweet and secure a home can be, and as Lila for describing a woman wandering in the strange world of loneliness.
I prefer this picture for reading order: Home, Gilead, Lila. and Housekeeping can be anywhere among, before ot after them!(less)

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May 09, 2007 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 04, 2007 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
Jul 16, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, 21-ce, us
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. This is not meant as a statement of influence, but simply one of kinship. The writing in all of these novels is conversational in tone and beautifully compressed, which is enormously hard to do, though it appears easy.

Gilead is the story of a Protestant pastor, the Reverent Ames, who, i
Elyse  Walters
Aug 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Utterly absorbing...just finished it!!!
Unbearably moving!
At the beginning- I fantasized such a letter from my own father.
As a child I use to look up at the sky and wonder where he was - and yes-- talk to him
- and imagine him talking to me.
There are sentences that I read several times - the ones I thought about when walking - between reading sessions.
"I saw a full moon rising just as the sun was going down. Each of them standing on its edge, with the most wonderful light between them. It see
Michael Finocchiaro
A beautiful book of great wisdom and tenderness. Melancholy, but hopeful. It well-deserved the Pulitzer for Fiction in 2005, and surprisingly Marilynne's second book written 24 years after her first, Housekeeping (which I have also reviewed here on GR).
In Gilead, Iowa, Rev John Ames is a 76yo preacher married to a much younger woman with whom he has a 7yo son. The time is the 50s and Rev writes this book to his son regretting that he will soon be dead while his son is still a child, so he wante
Reading Road Trip 2020

Current location: Iowa

My reread of Marilynne Robinson's Gilead had me squirming the past two weeks like a child in church, enduring a boring sermon.

Boring? No, not boring. Deep, profound, and, at the time, very unwanted.

I've been feeling edgy and petulant these last two weeks. I actually pulled my mask off in a grocery store the other day, panting with claustrophobia. I've been agitated; and I certainly haven't been in the mood to listen to some dying man drone on and on ab
Mar 06, 2008 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
Apr 27, 2008 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
Jun 10, 2010 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
Jan 05, 2009 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
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
Oct 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: The good and the gracious
Shelves: read-in-2017, dost
Old reverend John Ames writes a long farewell letter to his seven-year old son after he is informed of a cardiovascular problem that will eventually take his life.
What starts as a chronicle of his childhood memories and the life stories of his father and grandfather, also pastors, and the ongoing tensions between them about the use of religion to serve their ideals, progressively becomes an introspective, fragmented confession where the old man reveals his soul to the reader, but mostly, to him
Apr 01, 2015 rated it it was ok
Minister John Ames' insistence on leading a virtuous life becomes a pain in the neck. His personal and circular logic goes nowhere, and his daily ministrations, well, you really couldn't give less a care about. And this is truly awful folks. These are very deep thoughts from father to son, directly from the death bed. & our main thought through this all becomes: Wow, the dude's taking his awful sweet-ass time to die! ...more
Meredith Holley
Aug 08, 2010 marked it as abandoned  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Meredith 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
Jul 23, 2008 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,
David Schaafsma
A Balm in Gilead

There is a balm in Gilead
To make the wounded whole;
There is a balm in Gilead
To heal the sin sick soul.

Some times I feel discouraged,

And think my work’s in vain,

But then the Holy Spirit

Revives my soul again. --Traditional African American spiritual.

Gilead is a novel in the form of a letter from a small town (Gilead, Iowa) Congregationalist minister John Ames, 77, to his 7 year old son, written in 1956 as he assumes he is near death from heart troubles so his son can, later, as
John Ames is old and he is dying. His wife is much younger than he is and he has a six year old son that he has no chance of seeing grown. In response, he begins a journal that reads like a long letter to be read someday in the future by his son. Ames is a preacher, and much of what he discusses is couched in terms of his religion and his beliefs, but what he is facing and has faced in life is so universal that even an atheist might relate.

As Ames details the closing days of his life, we see th
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
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
Dec 07, 2008 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
"It's your existence I love you for, mainly. Existence seems to me now the most remarkable thing that could ever be imagined."

This is one of the most beautifully written love letters that I have ever come across. James Ames, a congregational minister has a heart condition and doesn’t believe that he will be living much longer, so he wants his son to know him, so this long love letter.

And when you google quotes on this book, the list is so long that you will realize the wealth of this book, that
Apr 12, 2015 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
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 abo
Jan 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is one of those highly praised novels that I've been meaning to read for more than a decade, and this holiday break I finally made time for it.

Gilead is told in stream-of-consciousness style, following the thoughts and reflections of the small-town reverend John Ames, who has learned he has a heart condition and doesn't have long to live. John tells his story in the form of a letter to his young son, and the reader hears all kinds of reminsiscences from his long life, and also learns about
Aug 05, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: pulitzer
The only positive thing I can say about this book is that it is well-written, from a formal standpoint. I hated the main character, an old whiny preacher who is writing down the story of his life for his young son.

This man incarnates everything I despise about religious blindness and righteousness. Even when the preacher tries to be honest, he always assumes that his absolute truth and morality can't be touched. He ultimately knows everything best, even though he might have made mistakes - some
Jul 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites, 2020
as often tedious as it is lyrical, which seems intended. the novel’s told from the point of view of a terminally ill, elderly reverend writing a lengthy letter to his young son, in which he drifts from reflections on religion to stories of his past to a diaristic account of his bleak present, in a way that’s associative and impressionistic. Robinson writes prose that trembles with pain and sadness, and so subtly captures generational conflict.
Aug 23, 2015 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
Helene Jeppesen
Apr 18, 2017 rated it liked it
"Gilead" is one long letter from a father to his son. The father, John, is an old reverend approaching death. His son is only 7 years old as the letter is written, and therefore the letter becomes a writing of John's thoughts and worries that he feels like he needs to pass on to his son before he dies.
For some parts, this letter was really touching. It is written in a non-chronological way that puzzles you, and it comes with beautiful and heartfelt anecdotes on John's life, doubts, and worries
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 bee
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
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Huntsville-Madiso...: Staff Pick - Gilead by Marilynne Robinson 1 7 Jun 27, 2020 04:47PM  

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Marilynne Summers Robinson (born November 26, 1943) is an American novelist and essayist. Across her writing career, Robinson has received numerous awards, including the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2005, National Humanities Medal in 2012, and the 2016 Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction. In 2016, Robinson was named in Time magazine's list of 100 most influential people.[2] Robinson be ...more

Other books in the series

Gilead (4 books)
  • Home
  • Lila
  • Jack

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