In 1956, toward the end of Reverend John Ames's life, he begins a letter to his young son, a kind of last testament to his remarkable forebears.
'It is a book of such meditative calm, such spiritual intensity that is seems miraculous that her silence was only for 23 years; such measure of wisdom is the fruit of a lifetime. Robinson's prose, aligned with the sublime simplicity of the language of the bible, is nothing short of a benediction. You might not share its faith, but it is difficult not to be awed moved and ultimately humbled by the spiritual effulgence that lights up the novel from within' Neel Mukherjee, The Times
'Writing of this quality, with an authority as unforced as the perfect pitch in music, is rare and carries with it a sense almost of danger - that at any moment, it might all go wrong. In Gilead, however, nothing goes wrong' Jane Shilling, Sunday Telegraph
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
American novelist Marilynne Robinson’s Pulitzer Prize–winning second novel tells the life story of Rev. John Ames from the fictional town of Gilead, Iowa. As the reverend’s health deteriorates, he decides to write a confessional letter to his only son. Ames uses this outlet to grapple with his shortcomings and doubts and provide a provocative, philosophical perspective on faith, love and human frailties. Gilead has a quiet, revelatory power that sneaks up on you and an elegant wisdom that sticks with you. Robinson’s haunting 2014 novel, Lila, provides another perspective on the Ames family saga.
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, "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.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Written as a letter from an old preacher to his son, this novel is like the countryside it describes: by turns harsh and spare and unexpectedly beautiful. The old preacher is disturbed by the return of the son of his old friend. Can he find it in his heart to forgive past wrongs?
The book has much to say about our common humanity and the great mystery of our hiddenness from each other.