Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

Whew, I made it. I really thought I was going to give up on this book, but I managed to stick with it until the end. This was one I had bought on our trip to the States, really loved at the beginning, then kept setting aside for other, more plot-filled books. It is a Pulitzer Prize winner from a few years back, and it is a really beautiful piece of writing, full of wisdom and humanity.

John Ames Boughton is a minister in a small Iowa border town, a place he’s lived his whole life. He is getting old and, leaving behind a young son, wants to give him his “begats”, his memoirs written down for his son to read after he dies. Because of the nature of the medium, he tends to meander a lot as he goes from thought to thought, and it’s easy to lose sight of what his point is in going through all this. It seems to me he’s writing as much for himself as for his son, to make peace with his life before it’s over. He starts off talking about his family, which segways into talking about his namesake, the son of his best friend with whom he has a troubled history. This goes on for a long time and isn’t really wrapped up until near the end of the book.

There are some passages that I just loved, but as a whole I didn’t have the patience to enjoy the book as much as I probably should have. It needs to be read slowly and thoughtfully, and I was more ‘slow’ and less ‘thoughtful’. It’s not for everyone, but you have to admire the author’s intelligence and talent, both of which are abundant.


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