Gilead

( 107 )

Overview

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 spiritual prose allows "even the faithless reader to feel the possibility of transcendent order" (Slate). In the luminous and unforgettable voice of ...

See more details below
Paperback (Reprint)
$9.38
BN.com price
(Save 37%)$15.00 List Price

Pick Up In Store

Reserve and pick up in 60 minutes at your local store

Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (312) from $1.99   
  • New (17) from $4.95   
  • Used (295) from $1.99   
Gilead

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK
  • NOOK HD/HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$7.99
BN.com price
(Save 20%)$9.99 List Price

Overview

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 spiritual prose allows "even the faithless reader to feel the possibility of transcendent order" (Slate). In the luminous and unforgettable voice of Congregationalist minister John Ames, Gilead reveals the human condition and the often unbearable beauty of an ordinary life.

 

Gilead is the winner of the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

Winner of the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction

Winner of the 2004 National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"At a moment in cultural history dominated by the shallow, the superficial, the quick fix, Marilynne Robinson is a miraculous anomaly: a writer who thoughtfully, carefully, and tenaciously explores some of the deepest questions confronting the human species. . . . Poignant, absorbing, lyrical...Robinson manages to convey the miracle of existence itself."—Merle Rubin, Los Angeles Times Book Review

"Incandescent . . . magnificent . . . [a] literary miracle."—Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly (A)

"Rapturous . . . astonishing . . . Gilead is an inspired work from a writer whose sensibility seems steeped in holy fire."—Lisa Shea, Elle

 

"Lyrical and meditative . . . potently contemplative."—Michele Orecklin, Time

"Perfect."—Jeremy Jackson, People(four stars)

 

"Major."—Philip Connors, Newsday

"You must read this book. . . . Altogether unlike any other work of fiction, it has sprung forth more than twenty years after Housekeeping with what I can only call amazing grace."—Anne Hulbert, Slate

"So serenely beautiful and written in a prose so gravely measured and thoughtful, that one feels touched with grace just to read it."—Michael Dirda, The Washington Post

"There are passages here of such profound, hard-won wisdom and spiritual insight that they make your own life seem richer. . . . Gilead [is] a quiet, deep celebration of life that you must not miss."—Ron Charles, The Christian Science Monitor

"Gilead is a refuge for readers longing for that increasingly rare work of fiction, one that explores big ideas while telling a good story. As John Ames might point out, it's a remarkable thing to consider."—Olivia Boler, San Francisco Chronicle

Michael Dirda
Marilynne Robinson draws on all of these associations in her new novel, which -- let's say this right now -- is 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: "Adulthood is a wonderful thing, and brief. You must be sure to enjoy it while it lasts."
— The Washington Post
James Wood
Gilead is a beautiful work -- demanding, grave and lucid -- and is, if anything, more out of time than Robinson's book of essays, suffused as it is with a Protestant bareness that sometimes recalls George Herbert (who is alluded to several times, along with John Donne) and sometimes the American religious spirit that produced Congregationalism and 19th-century Transcendentalism and those bareback religious riders Emerson, Thoreau and Melville.
— The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
Fans of Robinson's acclaimed debut Housekeeping (1981) will find that the long wait has been worth it. From the first page of her second novel, the voice of Rev. John Ames mesmerizes with his account of his life-and that of his father and grandfather. Ames is 77 years old in 1956, in failing health, with a much younger wife and six-year-old son; as a preacher in the small Iowa town where he spent his entire life, he has produced volumes and volumes of sermons and prayers, "[t]rying to say what was true." But it is in this mesmerizing account-in the form of a letter to his young son, who he imagines reading it when he is grown-that his meditations on creation and existence are fully illumined. Ames details the often harsh conditions of perishing Midwestern prairie towns, the Spanish influenza and two world wars. He relates the death of his first wife and child, and his long years alone attempting to live up to the legacy of his fiery grandfather, a man who saw visions of Christ and became a controversial figure in the Kansas abolitionist movement, and his own father's embittered pacifism. During the course of Ames's writing, he is confronted with one of his most difficult and long-simmering crises of personal resentment when John Ames Boughton (his namesake and son of his best friend) returns to his hometown, trailing with him the actions of a callous past and precarious future. In attempting to find a way to comprehend and forgive, Ames finds that he must face a final comprehension of self-as well as the worth of his life's reflections. Robinson's prose is beautiful, shimmering and precise; the revelations are subtle but never muted when they come, and the careful telling carries the breath of suspense. There is no simple redemption here; despite the meditations on faith, even readers with no religious inclinations will be captivated. Many writers try to capture life's universals of strength, struggle, joy and forgiveness-but Robinson truly succeeds in what is destined to become her second classic. Agent, Ellen Levine. 5-city author tour. (Nov.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
As his life winds down, Rev. John Ames relates the story of his own father and grandfather, both preachers but one a pacifist and one a gun-toting abolitionist. Amazingly, just Robinson's second novel. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The wait since 1981 and Housekeeping is over. Robinson returns with a second novel that, however quiet in tone and however delicate of step, will do no less than tell the story of America-and break your heart. A reverend in tiny Gilead, Iowa, John Ames is 74, and his life is at its best-and at its end. Half a century ago, Ames's first wife died in childbirth, followed by her new baby daughter, and Ames, seemingly destined to live alone, devoted himself to his town, church, and people-until the Pentecost Sunday when a young stranger named Lila walked into the church out of the rain and, from in back, listened to Ames's sermon, then returned each Sunday after. The two married-Ames was 67-had a son, and life began all over again. But not for long. In the novel's present (mid-1950s), Ames is suffering from the heart trouble that will soon bring his death. And so he embarks upon the writing of a long diary, or daily letter-the pages of Gilead-addressed to his seven-year-old son so he can read it when he's grown and know not only about his absent father but his own history, family, and heritage. And what a letter it is! Not only is John Ames the most kind, observant, sensitive, and companionable of men to spend time with, but his story reaches back to his patriarchal Civil War great-grandfather, fiery preacher and abolitionist; comes up to his grandfather, also a reverend and in the War; to his father; and to his own life, spent in his father's church. This long story of daily life in deep Middle America-addressed to an unknown and doubting future-is never in the slightest way parochial or small, but instead it evokes on the pulse the richest imaginable identifying truths of what America was.Robinson has composed, with its cascading perfections of symbols, a novel as big as a nation, as quiet as thought, and moving as prayer. Matchless and towering. Agency: Trident Media Group
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312424404
  • Publisher: Picador
  • Publication date: 1/10/2006
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 497
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Marilynne Robinson

Marilynne Robinson is the author of the modern classic Housekeeping—winner of the PEN/Hemingway Award—and two books of nonfiction, Mother Country (FSG, 1989) and The Death of Adam. She teaches at the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

Biography

For someone who has labored long in the literary vineyard, Marilynne Robinson has produced a remarkably slim oeuvre. However, in this case, quality clearly trumps quantity. Her 1980 debut, Housekeeping, snagged the PEN/Hemingway Award for best first novel and was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Twenty-four years later, her follow-up novel, Gilead, won the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Ambassador Book Award, and the Pulitzer Prize. And in between, her controversial extended essay Mother Country: Britain, the Welfare State and Nuclear Pollution (1989) was shortlisted for the National Book Award.

Robinson is far from indolent. She teaches at several colleges and has written several articles for Harper's, Paris Review, The New York Times Book Review, and other publications. Still, one wonders -- especially in the face of her great critical acclaim -- why she hasn't produced more full-length works. When asked about these extended periods of literary dormancy, Robinson told Barnes & Noble.com, "I feel as if I have to locate my own thinking landscape... I have to do that by reading -- basically trying to get outside the set of assumptions that sometimes seems so small or inappropriate to me." What that entails is working through various ideas that often don't develop because, as she says, "I couldn't love them."

Still, occasionally Robinson is able to salvage something important from the detritus -- for example, Gilead's central character, Reverend John Ames. "I was just working on a piece of fiction that I had been fiddling with," Robinson explains. "There was a character whom I intended as a minor character... he was a minister, and he had written a little poem, and he transformed himself, and he became quite different -- he became the narrator. I suddenly knew a great deal about him that was very different from what I assumed when I created him as a character in the first place."

This tendency of Robinson's to regard her characters as living, thinking beings may help to explain why her fictional output is so small. While some authors feel a deep compulsion to write daily, approaching writing as a job, Robinson depends on inspiration which often comes from the characters themselves. She explains, "I have to have a narrator whose voice tells me what to do -- whose voice tells me how to write the novel."

As if to prove her point, in 2008, Robinson crafted the luminous novel Home around secondary characters from Gilead: John Ames's closest friend, Reverend Robert Boughton, his daughter Glory, and his reprobate son Jack. Paying Robinson the ultimate compliment, Kirkus Reviews declared that the novel "[c]omes astonishingly close to matching its amazing predecessor in beauty and power."

However, the deeply spiritual Robinson is motivated by a more personal directive than the desire for critical praise or bestsellerdom. Like the writing of Willa Cather -- or, more contemporaneously, Annie Dillard -- her novels are suffused with themes of faith, atonement, and redemption. She equates writing to prayer because "it's exploratory and you engage in it in the hope of having another perspective or seeing beyond what is initially obvious or apparent to you." To this sentiment, Robinson's many devoted fans can only add: Amen.

Good To Know

Robinson doesn't just address religion in her writing. She serves as a deacon at the Congregational Church to which she belongs.

One might think that winning a Pulitzer Prize could easily go to a writer's head, but Robinson continues to approach her work with surprising humility. In fact, her advice to aspiring writers is to always "assume your readers are smarter than you are."

Robinson is no stranger to controversy. Mother Country, her indictment of the destruction of the environment and those who feign to protect it, has raised the ire of Greenpeace, which attempted to sue her British publisher for libel.

Read More Show Less
    1. Hometown:
      Iowa City, Iowa
    1. Date of Birth:
      November 26, 1943
    2. Place of Birth:
      Sandpoint, Idaho
    1. Education:
      B.A., Brown University, 1966

Read an Excerpt

GILEAD


By Marilynne Robinson

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Copyright © 2004 Marilynne Robinson
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-374-15389-2


Chapter One

I told you last night that I might be gone sometime, and you said, Where, and I said, To be with the Good Lord, and you said, Why, and I said, Because I'm old, and you said, I don't think you're old. And you put your hand in my hand and you said, You aren't very old, as if that settled it. I told you you might have a very different life from mine, and from the life you've had with me and that would be a wonderful thing, there are many ways to live a good life. And you said, Mama already told me that. And then you said, Don't laugh! because you thought I was laughing at you. 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 unsigned after I've suffered one of those looks. I will miss them.

It seems ridiculous to suppose the dead miss anything. If you're a grown man when you read this-it is my intention for this letter that you will read it then-I'll have been gone a long time. I'll know most of what there is to know about being dead, but I'll probably keep it to myself. That seems to be the way of things.

I don't know how many times people have asked me what death is like, sometimes when they were only an hour or two from finding out for themselves. Even when I was a very young man, people as old as I am now would ask me, hold on to my hands and look into my eyes with their old milky eyes, as if they knew I knew and they were going to make me tell them. I used to say it was like going home. We have no home in this world, I used to say, and then I'd walk back up the road to this old place and make myself a pot of coffee and a friend-egg sandwich and listen to the radio, when I got one, in the dark as often as not. Do you remember this house? I think you must, a little. I grew up in parsonages. I've lived in this one most of my life, and I've visited in a good many others, because my father's friends and most of our relatives also lived in parsonages. And when I thought about it in those days, which wasn't too often, I thought this was the worst of them all, the draftiest and the dreariest. Well, that was my state of mind at the time. It's a perfectly good old house, but I was all alone in it then. And that made it seem strange to me. I didn't feel very much at home in the world, that was a face. Now I do.

And now they say my heart is failing. The doctor used the term "angina pectoris," which has a theological sound, like misericordia. Well, you expect these things at my age. My father died an old man, but his sisters didn't live very long, really. So I can only be grateful. I do regret that I have almost nothing to leave you and your mother. A few old books no one else would want. I never made any money to speak of, and I never paid any attention to the money I had. It was the furthest thing from my mind that I'd be leaving a wife and child, believe me. I'd have been a better father if I'd known. I'd have set something by for you.

That is the main thing I want to tell you, that I regret very deeply the hard times I know you and your mother must have gone through, with no real help from me at all, except my prayers, and I pray all the time. I did while I lived, and I do now, too, if that is how things are in the next life.

I can hear you talking with your mother, you asking, she answering. It's not the words I hear, just the sounds of your voices. You don't like to go to sleep, and every night she has to sort of talk you into it all over again. I never hear her sing except at night, from the next room, when she's coaxing you to sleep. And then I can't make out what song it is she's singing. Her voice is very low. It sounds beautiful to me, but she laughs when I say that.

I really can't tell what's beautiful anymore. I passed two young fellows on the street the other day. I know who they are, they work at the garage. They're not churchgoing, either one of them, just decent rascally young fellows who have to be joking all the time, and there they were, propped against the garage wall in the sunshine, lighting up their cigarettes. They're always so black with grease and so strong with gasoline I don't know why they don't catch fire themselves. They were passing remarks back and forth the way they do and laughing that wicked way they have. And it seemed beautiful to me. It is an amazing thing to watch people laugh, the way it sort of takes them over. Sometimes they really do struggle with it. I see that in church often enough. So I wonder what it is and where it comes from, and I wonder what it expends out of your system, so that you have to do it till you're done, like crying in a way, I suppose, except that laughter is much more easily spent.

When hey saw me coming, of course the joking stopped, but I could see they were still laughing to themselves, thinking what the old preacher almost heard the say.

I felt like telling them, I appreciate a joke as much as anybody. There have been many occasions in my life when I have wanted to say that. But it's not a thing people are willing to accept. They want you to be a little bit apart. I felt like saying, I'm a dying man, and I won't have so many more occasions to laugh, in this world at least. But that would just make them serious and polite, I suppose. I'm keeping my condition a secret as long as I can. For a dying man I feel pretty good, and that is a blessing. Of course your mother knows about it. She said if I feel good, maybe the doctor is wrong. But at my age there's a limit to how wrong he can be.

That's the strangest thing about this life, about being in the ministry. And then sometimes those very same people come into your study and tell you the most remarkable things. There's a lot under the surface of life, everyone knows that. A lot of malice and dread and guilt, and so much loneliness, where you wouldn't really expect a find it, either.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from GILEAD by Marilynne Robinson Copyright © 2004 by Marilynne Robinson. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Read More Show Less

Reading Group Guide

Discussion Questions

1. What was your perception of the narrator in the opening paragraphs? In what ways did your understanding of him change throughout the novel? Did John’s own perception of his life seem to evolve as well?

2. Biblical references to Gilead (a region near the Jordan River) describe its plants as having healing properties. The African-American spiritual "There Is a Balm in Gilead" equates Jesus with this balm. According to some sources, the Hebrew origin of the word simply means "rocky area." Do these facts make Gilead an ironic or symbolically accurate title for the novel?

3. The vision experienced by John’s grandfather is a reminder that the Christ he loves identifies utterly with the oppressed and afflicted, whom he must therefore help to free. He is given his mission, like a biblical prophet. This kind of vision was reported by many abolitionists, and they acted upon it as he did. What guides John in discerning his own mission?

4. How does John seem to feel about his brother’s atheism in retrospect? What accounts for Edward’s departure from the church? What enabled John to retain his faith?

5. The rituals of communion and baptism provide many significant images throughout the novel. What varied meanings do John and his parishioners ascribe to them? What makes him courageous enough to see the sacred in every aspect of life?

6. One of the most complex questions for John to address is the notion of salvation, how it is defined, and how (or whether) God determines who receives it. How do the novel’s characters convey assorted possibilities about this topic? What answers would you have given to the questions John faces regarding the fate of souls and the nature of pain in the world?

7. Marilynne Robinson included several quotations from scripture and hymns; John expresses particular admiration for Isaac Watts, an eighteenth-century English minister whose hymns were widely adopted by various Protestant denominations. Do you believe that certain texts are divinely inspired? What is the role of metaphor in communicating about spiritual matters?

8. Discuss the literary devices used in this novel, such as its epistolary format, John’s finely honed voice, and the absence of conventional chapter breaks (save for a long pause before Jack’s marriage is revealed). How would you characterize Gilead’s narrative structure?

9. What commentary does John offer about the differences between his two wives? Do you agree with Jack when he calls John’s marriage unconventional?

10. John describes numerous denominations in his community, including Lutherans, Presbyterians, Methodists, Quakers, and Congregationalists. What can you infer from the presence of such variety? Or does the prevalence of Protestants mean that there is little religious variety in Gilead?

11. What might John think of current religious controversies in America? In what ways are his worries and joys relevant to twenty-first-century life?

12. John grapples mightily with his distrust of Jack. Do you believe John writes honestly about the nature of that distrust? What issues contribute to these struggles with his namesake?

13. Discuss the author’s choice of setting for Gilead. Is there a difference between the way religion manifests itself in small towns versus urban locales? What did you discover about the history of Iowa’s rural communities and about the strain of radicalism in Midwestern history? Did it surprise you?

14. Abolition drew John’s grandfather to the Midwest, and the novel concludes at the dawn of the civil rights movement. In what ways does this evolution of race relations mirror the changes John has witnessed in society as a whole?

15. Is Gilead a microcosm for American society in general?

16. In his closing lines, John offers a sort of benediction to his son, praying that he will "grow up a brave man in a brave country" and "find a way to be useful." Do you predict a future in which his hope came true? What do you imagine John experiences in his final sleep?

17. Robinson’s beloved debut novel, Housekeeping, features a narrator with a voice just as distinctive as John’s. Do the longings conveyed in Housekeeping and Gilead bear any resemblance to one another? How might John have counseled Ruth?

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 107 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(44)

4 Star

(18)

3 Star

(19)

2 Star

(12)

1 Star

(14)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 107 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 26, 2011

    Self-Indulgent, Wandering, Confounding

    Marilynne Robinson is at times a beautiful writer, but this novel is not a showcase for her talents. Many other readers have commented on the absence of plot, which in and of itself is not a mortal literary sin. But when enveloped in a series of platitudes that rarely, if ever, manage to transcend the mundane nature of the narrator (a surprisingly self-absorbed Congregationalist preacher named John Ames) it becomes virtually intolerable. It might have worked as a series of loosely-connected meditations, but like the good Rev. Ames himself they remain stubbornly humdrum, almost banal.

    There's a sense throughout the book that Robinson could not quite figure out what kind of person she wanted Rev. Ames to be - he is, at various turns in the narrative, defiant, judgmental, contrite, and resigned. Alas, these oscillations do not make for a complex character, just an inconsistent one. There are many, many passages where the Rev. Ames's voice (which is otherwise one of the few unifying elements) drops away completely, so that it feels as though you're reading a theological lecture by Robinson herself. And yet there's a surprisingly noncommittal nature to those ruminations - everything boils down to "maybe, maybe not" (at one point Rev. Ames muses that, "My point here is that you never do know the actual nature even of your own experience. Or perhaps it has no fixed and certain nature."). I heard many similar comments over bong hits in college, and they were not more penetrating that Robinson's.

    I say this all out of a profound sense of disappointment, as Robinson is clearly a gifted writer. And she isn't afraid to delve into history or religion. This effort, unfortunately, comes up short. With more discipline, and a bit of attention to storytelling fundamentals, this might have been a remarkable, even transcendent book.

    I would not recommend this book, except possibly as an effective sleep balm.

    5 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 28, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    One of my favorite books ever!

    A few years ago, I bought a used copy of Marilynne Robinson's Gilead because it won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2005 and I aim to read most - if not all - Pulitzer Prize Fiction winners through the ages. However, I was in no hurry to read Gilead based on its synopsis. The combination of a seventy-something protagonist, an obscure town setting, and a religious theme just didn't sound like the page-turning story that I confess I'm always looking to read. Eventually, I had the good sense (or dumb luck) to pack Gilead alongside several other books for a solo vacation a couple of years ago.

    I love when my negative assumptions are completely upended, and the object of my assumption is revealed in beautiful truth. That's exactly what happened with Gilead. What I thought would be a boring novel turned out to be a profoundly transforming one.

    The story is narrated by minister John Ames, who is seventy-six and dying. As a gift to his seven year-old son, John shares his meditations on life, love, family, friendship and forgiveness. He describes three generations of Ames men, the misunderstandings between them, their love. Whether John is pondering a moment or a lifetime, he is never far from its spiritual significance. Those soulful musings - rather than coming off as preachy or unwelcome or scriptural - are delivered gently, simply. The prose is spare yet arresting and beautiful. Gilead is an experience.and yes, a spiritual one I am grateful for.

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 26, 2008

    Disappointing...

    I usually love pulitzer prize winners. I enjoy reading books where the literary perfection inspires me. Even more, I love reading books where I am left afterwards feeling moved. After I finished this book I felt nothing. However, this book is beautiful in the way it's written, but that wasn't enough for me. I found it boring. I really struggled through it and found I had to force myself to read every page. I hate starting books and not finishing them and the goal of simply getting to the last page is about the only reason I continued reading. There is no plot, no development of characters, and I found myself skeptical of most of the historical references. All around, I just was disappointed with this pulitzer prize winner. I didn't feel it deserved the honor.

    5 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 4, 2009

    Deeply moving

    Gilead's premise is a letter from an elderly father to his young son. A batchelor until he married late in life, and a new father in his 70s, the father writes to his son, in lieu of being present when the son grows up. Robinson gradually reveals the father's deep gratitude for becoming a father and tender love for his son and wife. As a long-time minister, the son and grandson of ministers, the father naturally writes to the boy of faith, his insights into pastoring a small town flock and Christianity. In addition, the plot very slowly unfolds (but it's worth waiting for) detailing the lives of his lifelong friends and neighbors, their family's history, and how the two families have become so intertwined. Be sure and read the companion book, Home.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 21, 2008

    mesmirised

    i read this book on a sunny sunday in one go. i couldnt put it down. it reminded me a lot of my own father, an evangelical minister, and his love for me.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 26, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Still waters run deep

    An impatient, cursory reading of this book may not yield its treasures. (Bookwormiam seems to have given such a reading. The pastor most certainly does forgive his wayward namesake. And he proves that he is not too old to see his wrong assumptions and change his mind and heart.) But for those willing to settle in and let the details seep in, there is quiet wisdom and unassuming beauty. One of the few books I've ever read which, as soon as I'd completed it, turned back and began to read it through again.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 30, 2010

    Rambling letter from preacher father to son

    An older father who is dying of cardiac disease decided to write a letter for his son, who is young still, to read. A fine idea and some plot lines that seem like they are going somewhere but they always seem to fall flat. You get the idea this is the preacher who has sanctimonious, long, rambling sermons that seem to last forever. The other preacher's son, who is named after him, is a trouble maker and the preacher can never seem to forgive him.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 14, 2009

    A wonderful book

    One of my favoriets

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 16, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Beautiful

    This is a beautiful story. I don't know how to describe it other than that. Usually I read a book and then pass it on to friends or donate them to the library - not this one. This one is staying with me as one of my favorites.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 18, 2007

    The Secret of Life

    I have read many books in my lifetime, but rarely have I become so completely immersed in a work of prose that I literally had to take time to breathe. Gilead is one of the best-written, most poignant journeys into the human heart and mind that I have ever read. If it is indeed rare to find a book that leaves a permanent etch upon our minds and lives and changes how we live, then Gilead is the rarest of jewels, multifaceted and deep, and unshakeable in both its permanence and its humanity.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 6, 2006

    The Wholly Other Narrative

    If this narrative is but a novel, then all the other novels are but babbling baby talk. GILEAD is the poetic footnote that twenty-one hundred years of humanity and the humanities have added to the Beginning Word. This poem of somehow lucid spiritual mystery reveals a family genealogy of moral action by sewing it onto a tapestry with an unseen seamless backdrop of philosophy, psychology, and theology.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 28, 2006

    Great Book

    Totally not what I expected. It is very captivating and you get involved with the story. It shows and reveals the heart of a father and the love he has for his son. A great story!!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 18, 2013

    Waste of time

    Boring, pointless and repetitive

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 2, 2013

    Great Read

    You will not waste your time reading this book. It's a beautiful and lovely hymn to life from the perspective of a man whose life's work was to proclaim the Lord of Life.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 19, 2013

    I couldn't tell what this book wanted to be.  It was beautifully

    I couldn't tell what this book wanted to be.  It was beautifully written, but spent so much (well, all) of its time in the narrator's head, it became difficult to follow at times.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted November 24, 2012

    Quiet and powerful

    Robinson's Gilead is one of the most beautifully written books I have ever read. One can find a memorable passage on each page. The book is not fast-paced, but it is filled with wisdom and an understanding of the human spirit. As the main character faces his own mortality, he also struggles to understand and be honest about his own shortcomings. This is a story about family, love, forgiveness, and the vast chasms that can occur between fathers and sons. It was a book club selection for our group, and we had a lively discussion about betrayal, predestination, faith, and forgiveness.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 9, 2011

    Not too bad

    I enjoyed Gilead. I thought Marilynne Robinson did a wonderful job of at structuring the book. Although it was written as a letter from an aging preacher to his young son, I found that I was still able to connect and develop a relationship with the characters. There was not necessarily a plot, where one could say there was conflict and resolution, but yet I was still very much involved in the story. The reason I read the book is because I attended a book reading by Marilynne Robinson in which she read a few pages from Gilead. I was so enthralled by just the few pages that she read that I decided to read more.
    I very much enjoyed the insights into human reality and theology and the complexities of aging and reflecting on one¿s life that existed throughout the entire book. There were several times that I paused while reading to appreciate a truth that was spoken or an issue that made me consider in as the different way the world. The book has a feeling as if you are reading a journal, where the writer just puts down his thoughts as they come to his mind. Although, when I write in my journal it¿s not nearly as beautiful. Also, it made for a better story, but rarely if ever can people remember conversations as word for word main character of the book. All in all it was a better quick and easy read, and pretty enjoyable. So recommendable or not? I think so.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 6, 2011

    Disappointing

    I expected a lot more from this given the awards, but I struggled through this even though it was such a short novel. Perhaps I am just not religious enough to get it...

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 7, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Softly ... softly ...

    This book should definitely be read in tandem with it's sibling, "Home". Marilynne Robinson writes with a depth of understanding and compassion for the families of two aging ministers, lifelong friends and neighbors. Through her eyes, we are given the privilege of reading the hearts of these men of the clergy, as they look back on their individual ministries, their marriages and their relationship with one another.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 20, 2010

    Demands Much from the Reader -- Delivers More

    Stick with this one through to the end -- it's only 256 pages. The main character's ruminations suggest tantalizing possibilities, but none that lead to the actual wind-up, which will surprise you.

    Meanwhile the twists and turns in the narrator's thinking depict a sensitive and articulate soul striving to fathom the individuals closest to him and the ultimate meaning of it all, as he bumps up against the limits of humanity and celebrates its wonders.

    At various points I questioned the acclaim this novel has received, but in the end I think it is well deserved. I am in awe of the author's nuanced rendering of her narrator.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 107 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)