11 April 2015

Review of Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

Title:  Gilead

Author:  Marilynne Robinson

Publication Information:  2004

How I Got This Book:  I bought a copy at a bookstore a couple of years back

Goodreads Synopsis: Twenty-four years after her first novel, Housekeeping, Marilynne Robinson returns with an intimate tale of three generations from the Civil War to the twentieth century: a story about fathers and sons and the spiritual battles that still rage at America's heart. Writing in the tradition of Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman, Marilynne Robinson's beautiful, spare, and spiritual prose allows "even the faithless reader to feel the possibility of transcendent order" (Slate). In the luminous and unforgettable voice of Congregationalist minister John Ames, Gilead reveals the human condition and the often unbearable beauty of an ordinary life.

My Thoughts:  I'm thinking 2015 might be the year of the sucker-punch novel.  This is the fourth (maybe fifth?) novel that I've read this year that can best be described as leaving me feeling sucker-punched...in the best possible way.

The narrative structure of this novel is a Congregationalist minister who is nearing the end of his life writes a journal for his son, who is seven, so that someday the son can discover who his father truly was.  In the course of writing the journal, the father reveals things about himself that no person could ever reveal through the medium of a conversation.  I think when the son eventually reads this journal, he would learn more about his father than if he had spent a lifetime with him.  The father also veers off into writing about his struggle with his feelings towards his godson--the wayward son of the minister's best friend, who suddenly and mysteriously reappears after a long absence.

As I read this novel, I had to keep reminding myself that I wasn't reading something by Faulkner or Thomas Wolfe.  Robinson has this masterful way of telling a story through small moments.  At one point, I caught myself wondering when something was going to happen, but I quickly realized that she was writing about life, which is comprised of many small moments that amount to a large story.

This is the third novel in a row that I've read that deals with one human's ability to connect with another.  In so many ways we are all alone on this journey through life, but through patience, forgiveness, and understanding, we can form connections with others.

I've got so many passages underlined.  I quickly knew that I was absolutely hooked on this story, so I made sure that I had absolutely nothing planned on Thursday so that I could read all day.  I didn't expect to finish over the course of two days, but I couldn't put it down.

Robinson is a truly beautiful and poetic writer who can pack a lot of emotion and understanding in her seemingly simple prose.  I cannot wait to read the next two books in this set (and the fourth one that is supposedly coming).

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