Book review: Gilead

A book review from The Movie Snob

Gilead, by Marylynne Robinson. This book won the Pulitzer Prize two or three years ago, but it is only the second novel by Robinson. Her first, Housekeeping, came out 20 years earlier and was about two sisters and the eccentric aunt who raised them. This one is about fathers and sons. It is in the form of a long letter that an Iowa preacher named John Ames is writing to his 7-year-old son. The year is 1956, and Ames is some 76 years old and believes that he will die of heart disease sooner than later, so he decides to write an autobiographical letter for his son to read when he is older, so that he will know what kind of man his father was. The answer, it turns out is a very good man, devoted to his ministry and his flock and his much younger wife whom he married late in life. But the virtuousness of the narrator does not mean his story is uninteresting. He writes about his wild abolitionist grandfather, who knew John Brown and shed blood for the anti-slavery cause. And his pacifist father. And his good friend Boughton, and Boughton’s black-sheep son who has just returned to the town of Gilead for reasons Ames does not know but fears nonetheless. And as befitting a minister, the letter includes occasional theological musings as well. It is a quiet, thoughtful novel, not one to be raced through. I thoroughly enjoyed it.


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