Thursday, March 22, 2012

A Book Review ~ Gilead

GileadGilead by Marilynne Robinson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It has been a long time since I've read a book that touched me so deeply and profoundly as this beautifully written book has done.  Rarely does one find a book so well written in such a thought provoking narrative prose.  The imagery in this book would stay with me as I went about my daily activities.

The themes of the book caused me to reflect on the great importance of embracing the simple beauty of the Christian faith when it is lived out in a humble way by those who attempt to act "from faithfulness to the truth" as they see it.   Some of the themes that I saw were: visions, baptism, communion of the Saints, forgiveness, war, race, ageism, parenting, the Prodigal, loneliness, history, and faith.

The narrator, John Ames, an elderly preacher dying from heart disease, tells his story by writing a missal of sorts to his young son.  He says, "For me writing has always felt like praying..."  Certainly, reading the book, I felt as if I were reading his prayers as John Ames struggled with his own humanness, his lack of faith, his faith, his struggles with forgiveness, and his need to understand the past and leave a story of what that past meant to him for his son to read.  He is committed to "Trying to say what was true."  He also is trying to make peace with himself and his lack of forgiveness and understanding.  He is bothered by his heart that keeps acting up and leaves him feeling old and tired.  He expresses his desire to die with a quiet heart.  In the end, I believe he did.

Gilead is about the past.  It is about a family caught up in abolition.  It is about how a pastor, a church, and community comes to terms with  war; in this case, the Civil War.  He speaks of how one generation does not embrace the struggles and visions of the generation preceding it, and acknowledges "we live in the ruins of lives of the other generations.

Gilead is a rich narrative.  The story is one stays with the reader.  It is about a bygone era.  It is about the times of our grandparents and great-grandparents.  It is how they connected to their times, their land, and their faith.  I felt at times as if I were reading my own family history since my great-grandfather who lived in Iowa served in the civil war.  It is also about how those who remembered those times tried to understand and adapt to the times just after World War II.

Community, and connections between long time friends is an important part of the story.  I loved the simplicity of the story, and yet the construction of the literary aspects of the book were quite complex and satisfying to ponder.

Gilead, according to Wikipedia,  says the biblical meaning of Gilead "means hill of testimony or mound of witness."  This image is seen throughout the book as John Ames connects the land to people, and people to their faith.

I will revisit this book.  I will read it again.  I know there is much more I can learn from this book.

View all my reviews


Teresa Evangeline said...

Yes, 5 stars! This is a beautiful book. I savored it, not wanting it to ever end. I loved her characters and the writing was wonderful.

Chatty Crone said...

That does sound good. sandie

Barb said...

Hi Sally, I read this book several years ago and also felt it drew me into John Ames life and struggles. Ms Robinson wove various universal themes into a satisfying story. She's written several other books and now that you've reminded me how much I enjoyed her writing, I'm going to investigate them on my Kindle. Thanks!

rosaria said...

I so totally agree!!!
Her newer book, Home, is equally rich.

Arkansas Patti said...

I will have to check it out. Your 5star review was wonderful but the fact that you will read it again is the clincher.

LC said...

And so it goes on my want-to-read list!

Grandma Yellow Hair said...

I am like Patti the fact that you will read it again is the clincher.
I so enjoyed reading your review. Just tonight I was wishing for a good book to take to bed with me. Now with my Color Nook the kids gave me for Christmas I might be lucky enough to download this tonight.
Thanks so much for taking the time to share this book with us

Thisisme. said...

Excellent review for us on that book, Sally! It certainly does sound very good, and it will certainly go on my "To Be Read" list, which seems to get longer, as I read the reviews from other Blogs! Thank you for sharing this with us.

Dee Ready said...

Dear Sally, . . . I read "Gilead" when it was first published, but your review today reminds me that it's time to read that glorious book again. Thank you. Peace.

troutbirder said...

Good novels are oft times hard to find these days. This one sounds like it passes the test. Thanks, Sally

#1Nana said...

Okay, I just ordered it from It's not my usual kind of read, but your review tweeked my interest.

Jeanie said...

Thanks for this comprehensive and thoughtful review. I have this book; started it and was having trouble getting into it for reasons I think had less to do with the book than where I was at the time I was reading it. Reading this gives me the motivation to put it back in the "to read" pile. Thanks!

Linda Myers said...

I remember thinking this book was special, but I should probably read it again so I'll recall why!

Relyn said...

Our library has a bookshop and I was just looking at Gilead. I think I may just have to go back and get it. Thank you for this thoughtful, excellent review.