Judy's Reviews > Gilead

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
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it was amazing

Minister John Ames is 77, and he knows he is dying. In this rapturously written novel, Ames leaves his seven-year-old son the legacy of a diary, with his thoughts, philosophy, reminiscences, and hopes and dreams for the young wife and son he leaves behind. Having lost a wife and child in his early years, Ames spent decades serving his congregation in faithfulness and loneliness. Unexpectedly, in his late 60s, a young woman enters his congregation and his life, giving him another chance at love and fatherhood.

Gilead, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, is a book to read slowly, savoring both the quiet wisdom infused throughout its pages, as well as its meditations on the relationships between fathers and sons, as well as on faith. Ames writes about his relationship with his own father; his father's relationship with his father, about his hopes for the future of his own son, who will grow up without him. He also writes about the father-son relationship between his closest friend, minister Boughton, and Boughton's prodigal, mysterious and troubled son, Jack. Why has young Boughton come back to town, Ames wonders? Does Jack have designs on Minister Ames' much younger wife? And can Ames' offer solace to Jack, estranged from his own father, and who wonders if he is condemned to perdition for his apostasy?

This remarkable book is one worth reading more than once, to savor not only the graceful and poignant writing but also for the wisdom and humanity of protagonists's voice. Toward the end of the story, Ames writes to his son:

"As I have told you, I myself was the good son, so to speak, the one who never left his father's house -- even when his father did, a fact which surely puts my credentials beyond all challenge. I am one of those righteous for whom the rejoicing in heaven will be comparatively restrained. And that's all right. There is no justice in love, no proportion in it, and there need not be, because in any specific instance it is only a glimpse or parable of an embracing, incomprehensible reality. It makes no sense at all because it is the eternal breaking in on the temporal. So how could it subordinate itself to cause or consequence?

"It is worth living long enough to outlast whatever sense of grievance you may acquire. Another reason why you must be careful of your health."

It is rare for me to give any book 5 stars. This one well deserves it.


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Reading Progress

Started Reading
December 1, 2015 – Finished Reading
December 13, 2015 – Shelved

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