Gilead

Author: Marilynne Robinson

Type: Fiction, novel

Published: 2000

I read it: July 2008

gilead

A confessional tale from the perspective of an old Congregationalist minister from rural Iowa. There is a lot of great poetry in this book, and the lack of chapter breaks keeps the pages turning. There were a few spots of confusion, mostly due to the narrator constantly referring to his father and grandfather without proper names (and even when proper names are used several characters have the same or similar names). It’s a nice, quiet read that depicts a heart loaded down by conviction, wisdom, and superstition. Maybe a future generation will look back on this novel to study the weight of religion, a situation that inevitably leads to undue inner conflict:

I have tried to keep the Gospel before me as a standard for my life and my preaching. And yet there I was trying to write a sermon, when all I really wanted to do was try to remember a young woman’s face.

Fortunately, the narrator is not a curmudgeon and finds a way to balance his spiritual uncertainties with his human loneliness. Here’s to more authors who learn to create such subtle characters.

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