Sunday, July 31, 2011

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson (2005)

Title:  Gilead
Author:  Marilynne Robinson
Published:  2004, Farrar, Straus, and Giroux
Genre:  Literary Fiction
Accolades:  2005 - Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, 2004 - National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction, 2006 - long list Orange Prize for Fiction

76-year-old Congregationalist Minister John Ames is dying of a heart condition.  Still capable of preaching and mentally sharp he has decided to write a letter - a journal of his thoughts - to his young son to explain the family's history, who he is, and what he believes.  Set in Gilead, Iowa in 1956 this quiet, profound book is the story of a life and a faith that can move mountains if only it can forgive.

There are certain books that as soon as you read the first two or three pages you know that it is special - that it will change you somehow - maybe not lightning bolt jolts, but small, subtle movements near your heart.  Gilead was that book for me.  Gilead begins with John Ames counting the blessings of his life and expressing the joy of having found love and having a child in the twilight of his years.

" 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." page 52

What simple words written or spoken that could be life-changing - some one's salvation - maybe we need to say them to those we love.  As we read on though we discover when the "prodigal son" of a life-long friend comes back to town that John Ames has yet to give the greatest miracle of all - forgiveness. Though Ames is a minister he still struggles with a human soul and Robinson deftly and beautifully describes his torment and his epiphany.

In the bible Gilead means hill of testimony and that is what the book Gilead is for John Ames his testimony of a well-lived life. 

My Rating: 5 out of 5

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