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Gilead [Paperback]

Marilynne Robinson
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
List Price: CDN$ 18.95
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Book Description

Jan. 5 2006
A hymn of praise and lamentation from a 1950s preacher man. Atestament to the sacred bonds between fathers and sons. A psalm of celebrationand acceptance of the best and the worst that the world has to offer. This isthe story of generations, as told through a family history written by ReverendJohn Ames, a legacy for the young son he will never see grow up. As John recordsthe tale of the rift between his own father and grandfather, he also struggleswith the return to his small town of a friend’s prodigal son in search offorgiveness and redemption.

The winner of two major literary awards and a New York Times Top10 Book of 2004, Gilead is an exquisitely written work of literaryfiction, destined to become a classic, by one of today’s finest writers.

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

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, "[t]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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

Robinson's first book, Housekeeping (1981), remains an astonishment, leading to high expectations for her longed-for second novel, which is, joyfully, a work of profound beauty and wonder. Reverend John Ames of Gilead, Iowa, a grandson and son of preachers, now in his seventies, is afraid he hasn't much time left to tell his young son about his heritage. And so he takes up his pen, as he has for decades--he estimates that he's written more than 2,000 sermons--and vividly describes his prophetlike grandfather, who had a vision that inspired him to go to Kansas and "make himself useful to the cause of abolition," and the epic conflict between his fiery grandfather and his pacifist father. He recounts the death of his first wife and child, marvels over the variegated splendors of earth and sky, and offers moving interpretations of the Gospel. And then, as he struggles with his disapproval and fear of his namesake and shadow son, Jack, the reprobate offspring of his closest friend, his letter evolves into a full-blown apologia punctuated by the disturbing revelation of Jack's wrenching predicament, one inexorably tied to the toxic legacy of slavery. "For me writing has always felt like praying," discloses Robinson's contemplative hero, and, indeed, John has nearly as much reverence for language and thought as he does for life itself. Millennia of philosophical musings and a century of American history are refracted through the prism of Robinson's exquisite and uplifting novel as she illuminates the heart of a mystic, poet, and humanist. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Oh, there's balm all right Aug. 13 2007
By Susan W
This is a lovely, winsome, "restorative" kind of book. It was wonderful to share consciousness with the narrator of this book, who is such a gentle, well-intentioned individual that your heart wells up with pride that the human race could produce such a worthy specimen. Experiencing this book is like being given a warm coat when you're freezing, or a soft bed when you're exhausted, etc. -- it's nourishing or strengthening somehow. The creation of this character is amazing -- it never for a minute feels untrue, and yet a paragon such as this could never exist. It's several days since I finished Gilead, and I am only now struck by how artificially structured the story is (to create the contrasts of good and evil that the author is obviously interested in). It felt real and true throughout, and compelling. I want to read Housekeeping now, and also The Trail of the Lonesome Pine.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gilead is great April 12 2005
Certainly the "themes" of GILEAD are nothing new, but what the author does with them is astounding. We've seen the father-son relationship theme explored in novels and movies such as BIG FISH and certainly BARK OF THE DOGWOOD explored not only that, but the theme of religion and history as well. But this new novel takes things a step further. I absolutely adored this novel. When John Ames tells the story of his family he makes his abolitionist preacher grandfather come alive and makes the reader a part of his history. Ames' voice read so true that I constantly had to remind myself that this was fiction. I had to stop reading to ruminate on both Robinson's perfectly selected words and on what they conveyed. I felt like Robinson had distilled the entire Old Testament into one psalm of love and grace. VERY insightful and full of hidden meaning (if you look for it), GILEAD deserves its place among the bestsellers.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A journey through time Feb. 21 2006
Gilead is a beautifully written book. Highly expressive and insightful, this story that spans four generations is centers on with John Ames, a preacher who upon realizing that his end is drawing near entrusts his son with the account of his an account of life and the lives of his forebears , an account which s more about ideas and that has at its core a mystery that is the source of inspiration in the story and that of course makes it so rich. The overriding idea behind the story is faith, courage, forgiveness, grace, friendship, solidarity and the lessons that should be learnt from human weaknesses such as self-indulgence, anger, hatred, and other blinding emotions. The softness with which this book is written takes away the serious nature of its message and of course makes it an interesting and worthy read.
I recommend this book along with Disciples of Fortune, The Union Moujik, The Usurper and Other stories, Housekeeping
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Just didn't feel it Oct. 9 2013
By Aggie G
I did not get this book. What is all the fuss about? I read a lot, and I read a lot of award winners, but this one just bored me SO much and I really didn't get the point. I didn't even love how it was written. It's VERY heavy on the religion, and it is very repetitive, and only near the end does anything of any interest happen. I was not a fan.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Short and sweet, full of wisdom and comfort Nov. 4 2010
Here's a book that takes the ordinariness of life and breathes it full of its essence. Not much happens but this is an incredibly rich reading experience. An old pastor in Iowa (I think?) reminisces about his past, including relationships with father and grandfather, as well as the conditions of today. He finds himself challenged one more time, proving that even the most experienced of us have much to learn. I found the book totally engrossing and thoroughly realistic. Most inspiring, perhaps, is this portrait of a religious life fully lived, and healthily lived. A good antidote to the "there must be something rotten somewhere" condition of religion in much modern literary portrayal.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Literary Gem of Unparalleled Boldness Dec 20 2012
By Ian Gordon Malcomson HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER
Robinson is one of those unpretentious writers who packs a lot of truth and substance into her words. Her stories are never full of aimless chatter or cheap filler because she believes in the importance of writing for clarity and purpose. "Gilead" is one of those delightful stories that puts the reader in touch with the values of the past as they continue to play out in the experiences of the present and the dreams of the future. Described here is the legacy of the Ames family as recounted in a letter from a dying father to a young son. In it he passes on a wonderfully rich and expansive tale of the aspirations of his antecedents as they played out in his life. As you read this book, be prepared to encounter intergenerational strife, dashed dreams, adversity in spades, and moments of doubt as the various family members attempt to serve God according to the dictates of their conscience. Friendships and familial relationships will be sorely tested as individuals decide to go their own way in life in search of truth, whether it be coming from other shores, larger conflicts like wars, worthy political causes, or just a sense of wanderlust. All these life-forces assert themselves in this comedy as conflicts that threaten the very integrity of an Ames' calling in life: to humbly serve God as ordained ministers in His church. A dying Reverend John Ames, the main character in this narrative, does not pretend to have any absolute answers to who God really is or how he acts other than the fact that his Heavenly Father has promised to give him wisdom to handle life's many challenges as they happen. It is this Christian confidence or hope that becomes the balm or healing power that John bequeaths to his young son and makes this novel the special read that it is. Women are regarded as the true pillars of virtue in life who remain faithful to their families even though they are often abandoned by their male counterparts in search of destiny.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars A Book to Satisfy Your Soul
This is book that satisfies your soul. It is a story with very little plot and not much really happens but it leaves you with a sense of fulfillment, a sense of contentment. Read more
Published on Oct. 17 2007 by Nicola Mansfield
4.0 out of 5 stars This book will move you to tears
This is a good book and As BEAUTIFULLY written as this book is, it is not easy to follow or even all that interesting. Read more
Published on Feb. 17 2006
2.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful prose but ponderous and slow
I read this for a book club. Robinson does have a gift for character development, though I found the characters generally uninteresting.
Published on Nov. 7 2005
5.0 out of 5 stars Extremely Charming
"Gilead" is a supremely charming novel. Taking the form of a letter scribed from a 73 preacher in failing health to the seven year old son from his second marriage, the story is... Read more
Published on June 29 2005 by Grace De Bueran
5.0 out of 5 stars Balm in this one
Certainly the "themes" of GILEAD are nothing new, but what the author does with them is astounding. We've seen the father-son relationship theme explored in novels and movies such... Read more
Published on April 2 2005 by Jane Doah
5.0 out of 5 stars Just trying to redeem a coupon
Ordinarily I would never shop at Amazon.ca. However, our family wanted Gilead and someone had put a $5. Read more
Published on Dec 10 2004
3.0 out of 5 stars leisurely paced, touching
"Gilead" is Marilynne Robinson's second novel, written more than 20 years after "Housekeeping," which drew much critical acclaim as well as the 1981 PEN/Hemingway Award. Read more
Published on Nov. 30 2004 by A. C. Walter
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