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WINNER OF THE PULITZER PRIZE FOR FICTION and THE NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE AWARD
AN OPRAH'S BOOK CLUB PICK
In 1956, towards the end of Reverend John Ames's life, he begins a letter to his young son: 'I told you last night that I might be gone sometime . . . 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 unsinged after I've suffered one of those looks. I will miss them.'
'A visionary work of dazzling originality' ROBERT MCCRUM, OBSERVER
'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' JANE SHILLING, DAILY TELEGRAPH
'A beautiful novel: wise, tender and perfectly measured' SARAH WATERS
'A masterpiece' SUNDAY TIMES
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.