Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Review of the Day: Gilead



Gilead, Marilynne Robinson's Pulitzer-winning novel, is surprisingly entertaining for an epistolary novel consisting of only one, long letter from a 77-year-old minister to his seven-year-old son. Certainly letters from dead, Midwestern pastors are not the typical stuff of contemporary novels. But Robinson makes it work.

In his letter, the father writes about his own youth and his relationship with his father, his scallywag of a grandfather, his best friend and that man's ne'er-do-well son, the history of his Iowa town as a stop on the Underground Railroad during the Civil War, and his two marriages. Throughout, he ties in the themes of grace, forgiveness, and man's fallibility.

Particularly striking were the narrator's discussions on how much he enjoyed his life. He writes the letter to his young son knowing that he will not be around when his son is an adult. But, although he is approaching death and anticipating his heavenly afterlife, he makes it clear that he appreciated the temporal pleasures of his life -- the beauty of the prairie, his books and education, falling in love, baseball, and his town. His reminiscences and the lessons he imparts to his son are elegant and timeless. Gilead is a beautiful story.


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7 comments :

bermudaonion said...

I had no idea that book was one long letter. Sounds good, though.

Sandra said...

Nice review, so glad you enjoyed this book as much as I did. You'll enjoy Home if you haven't read it yet. It deals with the life of the pastor's friend's son, the one who is named after him. An excellent story too.

Rebecca Reid said...

I also didn't know what this one was about, but it sounds great.

C.S. said...

I just could not get into this book, and I didn't care all that much for the sequel, "Home," which was a National Book Award finalist last year. Technically,her writing is about as close as it gets to perfect, which could be my problem with it. It's almost too correct. Clearly she has a large following, and the literary community seems to love her. I guess that puts me in the minority.

Shelley/Chain Reader said...

I loved this one! It is surprisingly entertaining--funny and thoughtful as well. It's spiritual without being preachy. I think I will reread it someday.

Terri B. said...

Your review makes me want to bump my copy up to the top of my TBR pile!

Nicole said...

I read Housekeeping and didn't really care for it that much. This one sounds good but I am war of taking the plunge into another of her books.

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