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Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
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Gilead (2004)

by Marilynne Robinson

Series: Gilead (1)

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9,210338559 (3.9)1 / 965
In 1956, as a minister approaches the end of his life, he writes a letter to his son chronicling three previous generations of his family, a story that stretches back to the Civil War and reveals uncomfortable family secrets.
Recently added byprivate library, tdwatson2, carlypancakes, kathryngower, gakgakg, RajLT, Serrana, Niftypifty, jcgotte
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English (324)  Spanish (2)  Danish (2)  Japanese (1)  Norwegian (1)  German (1)  Dutch (1)  Piratical (1)  All languages (333)
Showing 1-5 of 324 (next | show all)
Beautiful writing but plot-thin. I struggled to finish the last half of the book. Pretty b-o-r-i-n-g. Nondescript. At the beginning I was pulled in by the writer's style but not even the rhythm of the words could attract me to turn pages. Reading seemed more like a chore when I figured out there was no central conflict in the story. Blah. Pulitzer Prize? What were the judges smoking? ( )
  gakgakg | May 28, 2020 |
This was the kind of quiet book I have a love-hate relationship with. I enjoyed reading about the Ames family and their life in Iowa, with the tensions and obstacles that come with daily life. I did get a little distracted with the letter-format of the book, and I think I had heard so much about "Gilead" that it was a little bit underwhelming. ( )
  bookishtexpat | May 21, 2020 |
Read 2015, favourite. ( )
  sasameyuki | May 15, 2020 |
I not only read this for the 100 book challenge I'm working on but also for TIOLI Challenge #3. Read a book you might not have read this month without COVID-19. I pushed it up the TBR stack because Gilead is a pharmaceutical working on an antidote for COVID-19.
There is, however, no antidote for my dislike of stream of conscience books and this one is no exception.
The writing is beautiful, the premise unfortunately sad, a dying preacher is writing a letter to his seven year old son explaining his regrets, his fears, his vocation and probably most importantly relating stories of his father, grandfather and life long friends.
I wish he had spent more time making memories with his son instead of relating stories about long dead ancestors but I came to reconcile to the fact that this letter was more of a reckoning for Preacher Ames than a gift to his son. ( )
  Carmenere | Apr 21, 2020 |
Not exactly a novel, more a letter in a bottle memoir, though the bottle is time and chance. John, an elderly minister writes to the son of his old age, recalling his abolitionist reverend grandfather a Kansas Free-State settler, active in the underground railroad, and his father also a Congregationalist minister whose experience of the Civil War left him as strongly pacifist as his father was militant. So three generations of stories, views and experiences inform the first part of the book, while the last are John's own difficulties dealing with his namesake godson, son of his dear friend the retired Presbyterian minister. There is some theology and plentiful writing about faith, forgiveness, and love. John has no doubts about his faith, only how he can overcome his anger and discomfort to apply his faith to what may well be unsolvable pain to at least find peace that he has done what he should.
Beautifully written, the reader come to care for John and his unusual family and to understand from what he has made his life in the small dying town of Gilead, Iowa, before the religious themes come to dominate. ( )
  quondame | Apr 5, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 324 (next | show all)
But in Gilead, Robinson is addressing the plight of serious people with a calm-eyed reminder of the liberal philosophical and religious traditions of a nation whose small towns "were once the bold ramparts meant to shelter peace", citing a tradition of intellectual discursiveness and a historical cycle that shifts from radical to conservative then back to radical again, and presenting, as if from the point of view of time's own blindness, an era when unthinkable things were happening but were themselves about to change unimaginably, for the better. It takes issue with the status quo by being a message, across generations, from a now outdated status quo. "What have I to leave you but the ruins of old courage, and the lore of old gallantry and hope?"
added by melmore | editThe Guardian (UK), Ali Smith (Apr 15, 2005)
 
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. 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 [...] Robinson's words have a spiritual force that's very rare in contemporary fiction -- what Ames means when he refers to 'grace as a sort of ecstatic fire that takes things down to essentials.
added by melmore | editNew York Times, James Wood (Nov 28, 2004)
 
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."
 
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Dedication
For John and Ellen Summers, my dear father and mother.
First words
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.
Quotations
It all means more than I can tell you. So you must not judge what I know by what I find words for.
But it has all been one day, that first day. Light is constant, we just turn over in it. So every day is in fact the selfsame evening and morning.
For me, writing has always felt like praying, even when I wasn't writing prayers, as I was often enough. You feel that you are with someone. I feel I am with you now, whatever that can mean, considering that you're only a little fellow now and when you're a man you might find these letters of no interest. Or they might never reach you for any number of reasons. Well, but how deeply I regret any sadness you have suffered and how grateful I am in anticipation of any good you have enjoyed. That is to say, I pray for you. And there's an intimacy in it. That's the truth.
I'm writing this in part to tell you that if you ever wonder what you've done in your life, and everyone does wonder sooner or later, you have been God's grace to me, a miracle, something more than a miracle. You may not remember me very well at all, and it may seem to you to be no great thing to have been the good child of an old man in a shabby little town you will no doubt leave behind. If only I had the words to tell you.
A little too much anger, too often or at the wrong time, can destroy more than you would ever imagine.
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Twenty-four years after her first novel, Housekeeping, Marilynne Robinson returns with a story about father and sons and the spiritual battles that still rage in America's heart. In the luminous and unforgettable voice of Congregationalist minister John Ames, Gilead reveals the human conditions and "manages to convey the miracle of existence itself." (0-312-42440-X)
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