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Gilead
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2015 Book Discussions > Gilead - General Thread, Spoilers Allowed (May 2015)

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Caroline (cedickie) | 384 comments Mod
This thread is for discussing May's group pick Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. Spoilers are allowed here so please proceed with caution if you haven't read the whole thing. I will add some themes and/or questions tomorrow or later this weekend but feel free to get things started if you have things to share!


Ying Ying (yingyingshi) | 10 comments Because this is an account of someone who will soon be dead, I found several interesting reflections about the nature of life and death; e.g.
"It seems to me transformations just that abrupt do occur in this life, and they occur unsought and unabated, and they beggar your hopes and your deserving."
"Adulthood is a wonderful thing, and brief. You must be sure to enjoy it while it lasts."
"There are a thousand thousand reasons to live this life, every one of them sufficient."
Which are your favorites?


Lagullande | 17 comments Ying Ying, this quotation particularly resonated with me:

"And I can’t believe that, when we have all been changed and put on incorruptibility, we will forget our fantastic condition of mortality and impermanence, the great bright dream of procreating and perishing that meant the whole world to us."

It's the first quotation I have bothered to copy to my profile page.


Lily (joy1) | 2472 comments Not necessarily one to "bother to copy" to any profile page, but words that caught my attention:

"...You reached up and put your fingers on my lips and gave me that look I never in my life saw on any other face besides your mother's. It's a kind of furious pride, very passionate and stern. I'm always a little surprised to find my eyebrows unsinged after I've suffered one of those looks. I will miss them." p3, first paragraph of text.

look I never...saw on any other face besides your mother's
furious pride
passionate and stern
surprised to find my eyebrows unsinged after
suffered one of those looks
I will miss them

But, do consider this is a second read for me. I read differently then. The passage still swings between powerful imagery and heavy handed to my ear -- and somehow it is more a passage to my ear than eye.


Lily (joy1) | 2472 comments I smiled at this:

"I don't know how many times people have asked me what death is like, sometimes when they are only an hour or two from finding out for themselves...."

First tip off in the text we are listening to a minister (maybe a doctor)!


Lily (joy1) | 2472 comments One to ponder:

"...You can know a thing to death and be for all purposes completely ignorant of it. A man can know his father, or his son, and there might still be nothing between them but loyalty and love and mutual incomprehension." p7


Ying Ying (yingyingshi) | 10 comments Lagullande wrote: "Ying Ying, this quotation particularly resonated with me:

"And I can’t believe that, when we have all been changed and put on incorruptibility, we will forget our fantastic condition of mortality ..."


I guess human kind never actually remembered that condition either, did it? We just live in our day to day lives, whether changed or unchanged, corruptible or not, and are still consciously unaware of our own fragility.


Ying Ying (yingyingshi) | 10 comments Lily wrote: "Not necessarily one to "bother to copy" to any profile page, but words that caught my attention:

"...You reached up and put your fingers on my lips and gave me that look I never in my life saw on ..."


Indeed full of imagery; thank you Lily for pointing out. When I read the book, I hadn't stopped there.


Ying Ying (yingyingshi) | 10 comments Lily wrote: "One to ponder:

"...You can know a thing to death and be for all purposes completely ignorant of it. A man can know his father, or his son, and there might still be nothing between them but loyalt..."


This is wonderful; really something to think about. It reminds me of reading this book. We may have read it through, yet still have little idea of what it truly encompasses.


message 10: by Lily (last edited May 02, 2015 08:11AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lily (joy1) | 2472 comments Ying Ying wrote: "...It reminds me of reading this book. We may have read it through, yet still have little idea of what it truly encompasses. ..."

I remember not liking this book so much as the people around me the first time I read it, but given that I was working at the time, I would have read it quickly. Now, I am struck by some of the comments on the back cover of the copy I am reading, including this one:

"Gilead is a beautiful work--demanding, grave, and lucid...Gradually, Robinson's novel teaches us how to read it, suggests how we might slow down to walk at its own processional pace, and how we might learn to coddle its many fine details." --The New York Times Book Review [Bold added.]

I have been saying to myself recently, especially since taking some writing instruction, even this late in life and after many years of formal education, I am still continuing to learn how to read. I think learning how to read might well be something we could help teach each other on boards like this -- I am grateful to those of you who have been giving me clues and tips.


message 11: by Lily (last edited May 02, 2015 08:10AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lily (joy1) | 2472 comments Ying Ying wrote: "...really something to think about...."

It's really kind of freaky, isn't it: "nothing between them but loyalty and love". That sounds like a lot -- I'd say they are at lot, loyalty and love, that is, but also deeply understand, even have experienced, the "mutual incomprehension." Besides being experienced between parents and children, may also describe succinctly conditions between spouses, situations that have led to estrangement, even divorce.

Original quotation @6:(view spoiler)


Ying Ying (yingyingshi) | 10 comments Lily wrote: "Ying Ying wrote: "...It reminds me of reading this book. We may have read it through, yet still have little idea of what it truly encompasses. ..."

I remember not liking this book so much as the p..."


I agree with you Lily. I think reading is a skill we can always further develop and refine. The more we read, the more interesting it becomes. I just read the book "How to read literature like a professor"; which was very engaging!


message 13: by Lily (last edited May 02, 2015 09:32AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lily (joy1) | 2472 comments Ying Ying wrote: "I just read the book "How to Read Literature Like a Professor"; which was very engaging! ..."

That's in my collection, too. I also toy around from time to time with Adler's How to Read a Book and Francine Prose's Reading Like a Writer, but somehow I usually get bogged down. Rather like when I suggest my f2f book group spend a session on how and why we read and they mostly respond with blank faces.


LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 2318 comments I and my copy of Gilead are in different states, so I have no quotes for the moment. I read this when it was first published and loved it. For me, Marilynne Robinson's prose is as good as it gets. There are so many ways to understand what she says and it is so beautifully writen.


Ying Ying (yingyingshi) | 10 comments Lily wrote: "Ying Ying wrote: "I just read the book "How to Read Literature Like a Professor"; which was very engaging! ..."

That's in my collection, too. I also toy around from time to time wit..."


Thanks Lily for mentioning these books. I have already read Adler's book, which I believe is more suitable for reading non fiction books. I will take a look at the second one in the future.


message 16: by Lily (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lily (joy1) | 2472 comments Ying Ying wrote: "...I have already read Adler's book, which I believe is more suitable for reading non fiction books...."

I dabbled in Adler last night. Given the highlights, I'd read more than I thought. But, you are right, more of the text is about non-fiction. The tone also seemed pedantic and rule oriented. Still, I will revisit again.

But I want something that addresses how to recognize voice -- and shifts in voice. Also, the techniques and aims of "close reading", how to judge "intellectual honesty" or when characters become so-called "plot driven" rather than the characters determining the arc of the story.

Robinson seems consistent about first person perspective in Gilead. So far, a few places our protagonist does relate his view of someone else's perspective, like his father, his mother, his wife, the woman who gave them food and a place to sleep (view spoiler)


message 17: by Lily (last edited May 03, 2015 04:54AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lily (joy1) | 2472 comments "A beautiful work—demanding, grave, and lucid . . . Nowadays, when so many writers are acclaimed as great stylists, it's hard to make anyone notice when you praise a writer's prose. There is, however, something remarkable about the writing in Gilead. It's not just a matter of writing well, although Robinson demonstrates that talent on every page . . . It isn't just the care with which Robinson can relax the style to a Midwestern colloquialism . . . [It's that] Robinson's words have a spiritual force that's very rare in contemporary fiction [and] as the novel progresses, its language becomes sparer, lovelier."—James Wood, The New York Times Book Review (cover review)

http://us.macmillan.com/gilead/Marily...

"Midwestern colloquialism" -- I can "feel" this is true, but am having trouble identifying examples. Can other readers help?

What are examples of the language becoming sparer, lovelier -- to what is Woods referring?


message 18: by Sandra (last edited May 03, 2015 03:13PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sandra | 114 comments This is a book that is ultimately difficult to rate. One one hand it is kind of boring. It's the musings of an old man looking back on a simple life dedicated to his congregation, his small town, his close friends and family. Nothing much by way of plot or great character development. The prose, to me was simple and quiet and reflective. But on the other hand this story is very powerful because it is about what a life well lived should feel like in the end. The regrets should be few and small. The power of forgiveness and empathy should never fade even as, alas, we fade. The grace of faith is a powerful gift, the one who is blessed with it should be eternally grateful.

I might add that I am someone who like Jack Ames Boughton has struggled mightily with things like faith and God and religion. But as I age and put behind me many of life's major milestones I long for forgiveness and understanding. I wish I had faith to hold me up, to guide me, to shine a light into the unknown. To live a righteous life, to know you have been a giving and forgiving person, to know you have done your very best to help your fellow man become the best he could be as well, is a beautiful thing and worthy, I think, even if nothing too exciting or spectacular ever happened in that lifetime.

Rambling. I'm sorry, but this is the kind of feeling this book leaves me with. The desire to be considered worthy in the eyes of God. (Who, perversely, I don't always believe to be real, LOL) :P


Sandra | 114 comments I don't know if I'll be able to come up with any examples of Midwest colloquialisms but the way the reverend describes the prairie, the simple chores of the Midwest farms like collecting eggs or milking the cow, the quiet beauty of water droplets sparkling in the sun or acorns raining down through the branches of an oak tree seems told in a very spare and lovely way. As he said "I believe that there are visions that come to us only in memory, in retrospect. That's the pulpit speaking, but it is telling the truth." And this I whole heartedly agree with. Some of my most cherished memories are of simple things, of nature, that later upon reflection I realize how powerful they really are.


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Lily (joy1) | 2472 comments This review/book discussion guide speaks to the I-thou (Martin Buber) relationships explored in the book:

http://revsarahstewart.typepad.com/bl...


message 21: by Lily (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lily (joy1) | 2472 comments Sandra wrote: "...told in a very spare and lovely way..."

That language, more than colloquialisms, is what felt Middle West (Midwest) to me, Sandra. (I grew up into my mid-twenties in the Midwest.)


Sandra | 114 comments Yep, I'm still there, though I've been spending the winters in Arizona lately.


message 23: by Amy (new) - rated it 5 stars

Amy Rudolph | 23 comments One of the things I loved about the book was that the writing was meant for Ames' young son, and the musings are a lifetime of memories, thoughts, advice, lessons learned, all compressed into one diary. He means it as a legacy as well as one side of a conversation. One of the most poignant passages to me had to do with Ames seeing his son and wife playing out in the yard - he said, you probably won't remember this moment, but I do.


message 24: by Amy (new) - rated it 5 stars

Amy Rudolph | 23 comments Another thing I like about Gilead, when juxtaposed with Home, the next in the series, was the way that the same events were recounted by different people, and the different points of view made the event almost (but not quite) unrecognizable. It's a reminder that how we might see things is not the only way, and that everyone we meet has a story. I haven't read Lila yet, but I believe that is Ames' wife and, if so, I'm looking forward to reading that, as Ames' wife is both the great love and great mystery of his life.


message 25: by James (last edited May 05, 2015 01:25AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

James | 63 comments I wasn't sure about this book when I first finished it, but over the past few days, I've found it hasn't let me go and I keep dipping back in as I find more meaning there. It's keeps going up in my ratings.

I liked the way that John Ames started purely writing the letter to his son, but the appearance of Jack back on the scene really threw him. Then the 'letter' changes into being a place really to explore his own thoughts and he has to remind himself of his original purpose. It becomes more like an intimate daily log, but one from which he eventually presents his son (and the reader) with a valuable lesson.


LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 2318 comments Amy wrote: "Another thing I like about Gilead, when juxtaposed with Home, the next in the series, was the way that the same events were recounted by different people, and the different points of view made the ..."

Amy, You are right that Lila is Amos wife and the book is written from her point of view. Once again you will see events from another viewpoint. I do believe that this is a trilogy that could be read in any order, but with completely different emotions for the reader. I wonder if Gilead would be my favorite if I had read Lila or home first?


message 27: by Lily (last edited May 04, 2015 08:06AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lily (joy1) | 2472 comments Linda wrote: " I wonder if Gilead would be my favorite if I had read Lila or Home first? ..."

Linda -- is Gilead your favorite of the trilogy? I went back through your posts and that is the impression I get, but I may have missed one where you specifically said.


message 28: by Lily (last edited May 04, 2015 08:40AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lily (joy1) | 2472 comments Macmillan has a number of encomiums on their site. I'll pick a few off from time-to-time so we can perhaps assess our agreement or disagreement or the directions the comments may take us.

Here is one from Michael Dirda, author and a long time book reviewer for Washington Post:

"So serenely beautiful, and written in a prose so gravely measured and thoughtful, that one feels touched with grace just to read it. Gilead possesses the quiet ineluctable perfection of Flaubert's 'A Simple Heart' as well as the moral and emotional complexity of Robert Frost's deepest poetry. There's nothing flashy in these pages, and yet one regularly pauses to reread sentences, sometimes for their beauty, sometimes for their truth . . . Eventually one realizes that beyond a portrait of the human condition—prey to isolation and loneliness, ever needful of faith and love—Robinson has subtly introduced that great heartbreaking theme of American history, the often divisive, unfulfilled quest for social and racial justice . . . Immensely moving . . . [A] triumph of tone and imagination." —Michael Dirda, The Washington Post Book World

Has anyone here read Flaubert's A Simple Heart? I had not been aware of it. A brief summary is here: http://www.enotes.com/topics/simple-h...

The story itself is here:
http://www.gutenberg.org/files/1253/1...

I skimmed it, but like Gilead, it calls out for slow reading.


LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 2318 comments Lily wrote: "Linda wrote: " I wonder if Gilead would be my favorite if I had read Lila or Home first? ..."

Linda -- is Gilead your favorite of the trilogy? I went back through your posts and that is the impre..."


Yes, but I've not returned to it since reading Lila, which still haunts me.

I am interested inthe concepy that Robinson write in a mid west voice, as I have no clue what that means! (unlike Southern gothic, which I now, after many yeara, am starting to pick up) That said, the Gilead trilogy (esp Lila and Gilead) bring to mind a non-fiction book/memoir that I much love - Dakota: A Spiritual Geography by Kathleen Norris.


message 30: by Lily (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lily (joy1) | 2472 comments Linda wrote: "I am interested in the concept that Robinson write in a mid west voice, as I have no clue what that means!..."

Especially being from the Midwest, I'm struggling with the concept, too. It especially strikes me, having just read Smiley, and feeling, but not being able to describe, a similarity. The closest guess I can make is that strong emotions are often imbedded in the word choices and plot without being directly stated or explored. One gets that they are there, but one doesn't get to explore them straight-on. Now, I've not tried to pull examples from text, but that would fit with what I have experienced as the culture. Yet, I also suspect contradictory examples abound.

Whatever, I agree its fun to explore J.Woods's proposal of "Midwestern colloquialism" being identifiable.


Caroline (cedickie) | 384 comments Mod
I'm not quite sure how to describe a Midwest voice either, but the first thing that comes to mind is Sinclair Lewis' Main Street (which is a very different book from Gilead!). In an interview I posted in the no spoilers thread, Robinson explains that she grew up in Idaho and only moved to Iowa to teach at the writer's workshop there. It seems as though the Midwest voice is something she's picked up and worked on over the years.

Amy, I'm with you on loving the passages where Ames observes his young son - so many beautiful moments in this book. I'm looking forward to reading Home and Lila to see things from other perspectives.

Another thing Robinson discusses in her interview is how much she values character. Although there is not much plot in this book, there is movement in the characters, particularly with Ames, young Boughton, and perhaps to some extent his father and grandfather. I felt we learned more about Ames as a character through his judgment of, and eventual compassion for, young Boughton.

One last aspect that I loved was the way Ames withheld certain information for stretches of time. We know right away that he doesn't like young Boughton but it takes a long time before we learn why. The name of his wife isn't revealed until very near the end.


message 32: by Anita (new) - added it

Anita | 103 comments I loved "Gilead," but do wonder if I hadn't read "Lila" and "Home" first if "Gilead" would have impacted me the same.

And to the poster who commented that the book changed from a letter to a journal after Jack's return, I couldn't agree more!


message 33: by Lily (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lily (joy1) | 2472 comments Caroline wrote: "Another thing Robinson discusses in her interview is how much she values character. ..."

If one wants an example of a character-driven novel, this one certainly qualifies.

Anita wrote: "And to the poster who commented that the book changed from a letter to a journal after Jack's return, I couldn't agree more! ..."

I missed that comment previously. Thanks for reiterating. I'll watch for the shift. As I play at learning to write a bit myself, I'm also looking at what I read for clues on what writers do.


message 34: by Lily (last edited May 05, 2015 06:32AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lily (joy1) | 2472 comments Caroline wrote: "...We know right away that he doesn't like young Boughton but it takes a long time before we learn why...."

What do you consider the reasons to be? I don't sense that the primary ones are because he (view spoiler)


message 35: by Sandra (last edited May 05, 2015 09:18AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sandra | 114 comments Yeah, I'm not even sure he dislikes Jack Boughton just because he acts irresponsibly. I think it has more to do with his general disdain of family ties, staying close to his father, being the prodigal son who never really does return. Perhaps, lol. maybe you guys can convince me otherwise.

I don't think the Reverand ever does forgive Jack or even ever like or understand Jack. I think the Reverand finally realizes Jack deserves a blessing nonetheless because he is a human being who continually struggles just as we all struggle, is flawed certainly, but there is always hope for redemption. The sinner can use a blessing the most!


Caroline (cedickie) | 384 comments Mod
Lily and Sandra, good points. I suppose what he reveals later on could be more of his justification for not liking Jack rather than his real reasons (though he does admit early on there's something about Jack he finds unsettling). I don't think he ever fully forgives him either but acknowledges that Jack may be more deserving of compassion and understanding than he initially admits. This says more to me about Ames' character than it does about Jack.

I'm not sure if anyone else felt this way, but I got the sense that Ames was jealous of Jack to some extent, particularly of his age and the ease with which he establishes a friendship with his son and wife. I wonder whether Ames worried that Jack would try to take up with Lila once he was gone, and only realized he didn't have to worry once Jack reveals more of his story to Ames and tells him he's leaving town again. Perhaps what I view as compassion later in the story is really a feeling of relief.


James | 63 comments Caroline, I agree that Ames seemed jealous of Jack but I also felt that he was frightened of him too. You can tell he is worried as soon as he hears the first mention that Jack may be returning home. Ames was picked on by the young Jack with his pranks, and yet Ames didn't take any action in response. Ames seems quite a meek character perhaps cowed by his father and/or his grandfather (which would be no surprise), or perhaps his early tragedy. I feel he is given to understand bad behaviour rather than speak out against it. Don't know if you got this too.

'And the fact is, it is seldom indeed that any wrong one suffers is not thoroughly foreshadowed by wrongs one has done' (pg 221)

There may be more going on than I know about - so I feel I must read 'Home' and 'Lila' as well - I'll look forward to them.


message 38: by Marc (new) - rated it 5 stars

Marc (monkeelino) | 2638 comments Mod
Came across this passage in an essay entitled "Freedom of Thought" by Robinson (from her nonfiction book, When I Was a Child I Read Books) that seemed relevant to this book:
There is a great difference, in fiction and in life, between knowing someone and knowing about someone. When a writer knows about his character he is writing for plot. When he knows his character he is writing to explore, to feel reality on a set of nerves somehow not his own. Words like "sympathy," "empathy," and "compassion" are overworked and overcharged--there is no word for the experience of seeing an embrace at a subway stop or hearing an argument at the next table in a restaurant. Every such instant has its own emotional coloration, which memory retains or heightens, and so the most sidelong unintended moment becomes a part of what we have seen of the world. Then, I suppose, these moments, as they have seemed to us, constellate themselves into something a little like a spirit, a little like a human presence in its mystery and distinctiveness.



message 39: by Lily (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lily (joy1) | 2472 comments Marc wrote: "...When a writer knows about his character he is writing for plot. When he knows his character he is writing to explore, to feel reality on a set of nerves somehow not his own...."

What a pair of sentences! Thanks for locating and sharing, Marc. (Been having several discussions about character-driven versus plot-driven recently.)


LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 2318 comments Caroline wrote: "Lily and Sandra, good points. I suppose what he reveals later on could be more of his justification for not liking Jack rather than his real reasons (though he does admit early on there's something..."

I think Ames was jealous of Jack for two reasons -- how well Jack got along with his son and his fear that Jack might attract his wife. That seems natural to me, given the age difference and Jack's "bad boy" charisma.


message 41: by Lily (last edited May 07, 2015 07:32AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lily (joy1) | 2472 comments Another encomium from Macmillan web site.

"Gilead is a courageous venture into territory all but abandoned by contemporary fiction: the sustaining power of religious experience, the ethical imperatives of theology, and the blessedness of existence at its most mundane. It recalls us to the mysteriousness of our histories and ourselves." —Stacy Hubbard, Buffalo News

http://us.macmillan.com/gilead/Marily...

Can you suggest other writings that might meet Stacy's criteria? (Linda has suggested Dakota: A Spiritual Geography by Kathleen Norris, I believe.) My mind goes not to fiction, but the essays and books of Barbara Brown Taylor, Henry Nouwen, Thich Nhat Hanh, Pema Chodron, ... However, not so close in, also perhaps Annie Dillard, Anne Tyler...


message 42: by Marc (new) - rated it 5 stars

Marc (monkeelino) | 2638 comments Mod
Jack also has what Ames no longer does: youth and time. Both of which he can spend on and with Ames's family. I think envy and jealousy definitely creep into his feelings about Jack in addition to a certain level of mistrust.


message 43: by Lily (last edited May 07, 2015 12:31PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lily (joy1) | 2472 comments Marc wrote: "Jack also has what Ames no longer does: youth and time. Both of which he can spend on and with Ames's family. I think envy and jealousy definitely creep into his feelings about Jack in addition to ..."

I agree with you and Linda (@40) here. I think Ames lets us see his deep humanity here -- or perhaps I should say, Robinson lets her character demonstrate it to us.


Sandra | 114 comments We don't just see Jack's flawed humanity but we also see The Reverend's. The Rev is not so holy and perfect that petty human emotions like envy and jealousy don't rear their ugly heads. It helps us see how we always have to fight against sin and really strive to be a forgiving and compassionate being. Lessons to be learned present themselves in the least obvious places.


message 45: by Lily (last edited May 07, 2015 12:32PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lily (joy1) | 2472 comments Sandra wrote: "We don't just see Jack's flawed humanity but we also see The Reverend's. The Rev is not so holy and perfect that petty human emotions like envy and jealousy don't rear their ugly heads. It helps us..."

Sandra -- just for clarification, I was referring to John Ames -- "the Rev" as you aptly dub him -- @43. I was trying to point out how the author lets her first person narrator reveal himself. (Does he only use "John" to refer to himself -- I'd have to go back to the text to check, and I'm about to run an errand now. Anyway, I'm changing @43 to say "Ames" rather than "Jack.")


message 46: by Lily (last edited May 07, 2015 04:52PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lily (joy1) | 2472 comments Back, later, but no book in my hand. In catching up on another board, I encountered a link that led to this about a clergyman character in Jane Austen's Mansfield Park. It brought my thoughts back to John Ames and wondering how much readers might feel the comments about creating "a credible good character" applied to Robinson's work:

"Edmund is a good man: and we all know the hardest task in literary creation is to produce a credible good character. No one really knows why: there is a certain energy in evil which dazzles: but goodness needs very solid foundations: and solidity can seem dull."

Perhaps Robinson deals with any sense of "excessive piety" partly by giving us the Rev's conflicted responses to Jack Boughton. But my own reading so far is that she still does build a "very solid foundation" for the Rev., with perhaps some cracks in the concrete.

Those up for a diversion into Austen's clergymen might enjoy the entire article here:

http://www.starcourse.org/abbey/JACl....

(Thx to Madge on RR for this link.)


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Linda (rubyej) | 1 comments I'm around 80 pages into Gilead and Lila both. I started with Lila and picked up Gilead because I was hoping to hear Ames' side of the conversations the two have while getting to know each other. I am hoping that I'm just not far enough along in Gilead to find this but it looks like Gilead is very different. Of course the two characters tend to be opposites in many ways. I guess what I'm really hoping for more of is how Ames' thinks about Lila, how he understands her and who he thinks she is. So far, I love Lila and tolerate Gilead.


Violet wells | 354 comments I thought it was really well done how Robinson dragged Ames down from his pulpit and his rather self- satisfied sermonising and showed us how secretly shadowed and even soured by envy he was and how he's no less in need of grace than all those he bestows it on. Broughton was like his shadow self and unless he reconciled with him and thus his own shadow he would go to the grave only half a Christian. The interlacing of the secular and religious - father, son (Holy Ghost) - was a real triumph. Not the most exciting novel I've ever read but it was brimming with wisdom and beautifully sustained by the central complex struggle of Ames to find forgiveness in his heart.


Violet wells | 354 comments Favourite quote -
“I wish I could leave you certain of the images in my mind, because they are so beautiful that I hate to think they will be extinguished when I am. Well, but again, this life has its own mortal loveliness. And memory is not strictly mortal in its nature, either. It is a strange thing, after all, to be able to return to a moment, when it can hardly be said to have any reality at all, even in its passing. A moment is such a slight thing. I mean, that its abiding is a most gracious reprieve.”


message 50: by Lily (last edited May 29, 2015 09:53AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lily (joy1) | 2472 comments Violet wrote: "I thought it was really well done how Robinson dragged Ames down from his pulpit and his rather self-satisfied sermonising ...."

I wouldn't have chosen those words to describe Ames... I never really saw him as self-satisfied, but rather always as rather lonely, distantly leery of his bigger than life grandfather and realizing he had never had such crazy-vaulted passion for a cause, wounded by the loss of his first wife and child, surprised by the gift of Lila and their child, long ago placed in a awkward position by John Boughton -- who seemed as much a father-figure as a good friend when I was thinking back on the novel this morning. (Why did Ames's father disappear from the story quite as he did after the fateful quest of father and son for the grandfather's grave? Somehow, some generational stuff felt to me as if it got lost in the necessities of the main line of the story telling.)

The interlacing of the secular and religious - ... - was a real triumph. Not the most exciting novel I've ever read but it was brimming with wisdom and beautifully sustained by the central complex [moral] struggle[s] of Ames...

Your words as I might personally claim them, Violet. Thanks for saying them better than I could have done.

I might use the word "curmudgeon" to describe Ames (crusty, difficult, elderly). Aspects of him reminded me very much of Stoner. In the words of John Williams and Marilynne Robinson I feel as if I am in the hands of two authors who intuit so deeply some truths about Middle West America which I have yet to encounter with another author [including Smiley]. They capture aspects that I know in my bones and that are all confused with reasons why personally I left that part of the country as a place to live while continuing to hold some recollections and [flawed] people in deep respect.


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