Search Site
This site uses cookies to deliver our services, improve performance, for analytics, and (if not signed in) for advertising. By using LibraryThing you acknowledge that you have read and understand our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your use of the site and services is subject to these policies and terms.

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.


Gilead (2004)

by Marilynne Robinson, Marilynne Robinson

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Gilead (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
10,562361624 (3.89)1 / 1050
As the Reverend John Ames approaches the hour of his own death, 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.
To Read (20)

Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

Group TopicMessagesLast Message 
 Someone explain it to me...: Gilead17 unread / 17Sandydog1, July 2014

» See also 1050 mentions

English (349)  Danish (2)  Spanish (2)  Swedish (1)  Dutch (1)  Piratical (1)  German (1)  Japanese (1)  Norwegian (1)  All languages (359)
Showing 1-5 of 349 (next | show all)
What makes this such a beautiful book is that it takes seriously its values of honesty and forthrightness. The appeal of Christianity is the acknowledgement of sin and the imperative to be a better person in the service of others.

John Ames readily admits his flaws, but he is still somewhat idealized by the author. He is writing a text to his young son, to read when his father is dead and when he has grown. It is possible, therefore, that he conceals much, and that this is the nature of his narrative. He can't give everything dark away to posterity.

His struggles with what to conceal and what to reveal are pertinent in regards Jack Boughton, the prodigal son of Ames's best friend, and his namesake. What does it mean to be a Christian towards Jack? Who is most in need of saving? ( )
  jonbrammer | Jul 1, 2023 |
Quiet but persistent, what could certainly bore me to tears kept my attention till the end instead. It took me years to pick up this book, because an old father writing to his son just didn't sound gripping, and he's a pastor at that, so do I really want to hear more preaching? But it's an honest and reflective monologue that delivers humanity beautifully. ( )
  KallieGrace | Jun 8, 2023 |
First edition as new
  dgmathis | Mar 15, 2023 |
In 1950s Iowa, precisely in the windswept settlement of Gilead, Congregationalist minister John Ames is preparing to meet his Maker. Ames is 76 and his heart has been playing up. He knows that he does not have long to live, and that he will be leaving behind a young wife and a seven year old son, the unexpected blessing of his old age. So he sets out to write a long letter to this boy he will never see growing up. As Ames sifts through his memories, the story of his family (particularly his preacher father and grandfather) and the community which they served starts to take shape. Old pains and preoccupations resurface - particularly those related to the minister's godson and namesake John Ames Boughton. A troublemaker in childhood, youth and well into adulthood, is there the possibility of salvation for Boughton as well? Will God's grace ever touch him?

This is "Gilead" - part diary, part memoir; part testament, part confession. Robinson writes brilliantly - her narrator's style is perfectly pitched and utterly convincing with its continuous scriptural references and discursive theological debates underscored by very human emotions. Some scenes and metaphors - such as the image of John and and his father standing on the desolate grave of John's grandfather against the backdrop of a rising moon - will stick to the mind.

At one point in the novel, Ames mentions [b:The Diary of a Country Priest|63672|The Diary of a Country Priest|Georges Bernanos|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1436634216s/63672.jpg|1174195] by [a:Georges Bernanos|35812|Georges Bernanos|https://images.gr-assets.com/authors/1245180195p2/35812.jpg]. Although the latter book is written from a Catholic viewpoint (indeed, it is considered a classic "Catholic novel") whilst Gilead reflects a "Calvinist" theology, there are surprising similarities between the two works in their conception (a first-person journal), narrators (troubled "men of the cloth" in a small community) and in their concerns (mercy, grace, sin, redemption). However, I'd say that Robinson is a cannier writer. Although hers is no plot-driven novel, she tightly controls the few narrative threads and introduces gradual revelations in such a way that she grips the interest of the reader. I'd even go as far as saying that she manages to make her novel "entertaining" - and I mean that in a good way. Both are great books - but, to use a musical analogy, it's rather like comparing the organ works of Messiaen with the more immediate pleasures of Copland's "Appalachian Spring".

4.5* rounded up to 5* ( )
  JosephCamilleri | Feb 21, 2023 |
Here in 2023, after reading Robinson's Lila and starting to read her Housekeeping, I see that I logged in this book in 2011. Now, though, I have no certain memory of having read it. ( )
  mykl-s | Jan 3, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 349 (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."

» Add other authors (15 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Robinson, Marilynneprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Robinson, Marilynnemain authorall editionsconfirmed
Ebnet, Karl-Heinzsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kampmann, EvaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
For John and Ellen Summers, my dear father and mother.
First words
This is an interesting planet. It deserves all the attention you can give it (p. 28).
I want your dear perishable self to live long and love this poor perishable world (p.53).
I can't believe we will forget our sorrows altogether. That would mean forgetting that we had lived, humanly speaking. Sorrow seems to me to be a great part of the substance of human life (p. 104).
But if the awkwardness and falseness and failure of religion are interpreted to mean there is no core of truth in it.... the people are disables from trusting their thoughts, their expressions of belief, and their understanding, and even from believing in the essential dignity of their and their neighbors' endlessly flawed experience of belief (p.146).
I conceal my motives from myself pretty effectively sometimes (p. 147).
Last words
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Original language
Canonical DDC/MDS
Canonical LCC

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (1)

As the Reverend John Ames approaches the hour of his own death, 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.

No library descriptions found.

Book description
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)
Haiku summary

Popular covers

Quick Links


Average: (3.89)
0.5 9
1 77
1.5 9
2 156
2.5 44
3 383
3.5 122
4 669
4.5 106
5 797

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.


About | Contact | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 194,530,387 books! | Top bar: Always visible