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. Marilynne Robinson is the author of the modern classic "Housekeeping"--winner of the PEN/Hemingway Award--the novel "Home," and two books of nonfiction, "Mother Country" and "The Death of Adam." She teaches at the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize
Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award
Named One of the Ten Best Books by "The New York Times Book Review"
A "New York Times" Notable Book
A "Chicago Tribune" Best Book
Short-listed for the William Saroyan International Prize for WritingAn American Library Association Notable Book of the Year In 1956, toward the end of Reverend John Ames's life, he begins a letter to his young son, an account of himself and his forebears. Ames is the son of an Iowa preacher and the grandson of a minister who, as a young man in Maine, saw a vision of Christ bound in chains and came west to Kansas to fight for abolition: He "preached men into the Civil War," then, at age fifty, became a chaplain in the Union Army, losing his right eye in battle. Reverend Ames writes to his son about the tension between his father--an ardent pacifist--and his grandfather, whose pistol and bloody shirts, concealed in an army blanket, may be relics from the fight between the abolitionists and those settlers who wanted to vote Kansas into the Union as a slave state. And he tells a story of the sacred bonds between fathers and sons, which are tested in his tender and strained relationship with his namesake, John Ames Boughton, his best friend's wayward son.
This is also the tale of another remarkable vision--not a corporeal vision of God but the vision of life as a wondrously strange creation. It tells how wisdom was forge in Ames's soul during his solitary life, and how history lives through generations, pervasively present even when betrayed and forgotten.
"Gilead" is the long-hoped-for second novel by one of our finest writers, a hymn of praise and lamentation to the God-haunted existence that Reverend Ames loves passionately, and from which he will soon part. "A beautiful work--demanding, grave, and lucid . . . Nowadays, when so many writers are acclaimed as great stylists, it's hard to make anyone notice when you praise a writer's prose. There is, however, something remarkable about the writing in "Gilead." It's not just a matter of writing well, although Robinson demonstrates that talent on every page . . . It isn't just the care with which Robinson can relax the style to a Midwestern colloquialism . . . It's that] Robinson's words have a spiritual force that's very rare in contemporary fiction and] as the novel progresses, its language becomes sparer, lovelier."--James Wood, "The New York Times Book Review" (cover review)
" "Gilead"] has a note of the miraculous."--Joan Acocella, "The New York Review of Books"
"So serenely beautiful, and written in a prose so gravely measured and thoughtful, that one feels touched with grace just to read it. "Gilead "possesses the quiet ineluctable perfection of Flaubert's 'A Simple Heart' as well as the moral and emotional complexity of Robert Frost's deepest poetry. There's nothing flashy in these pages, and yet one regularly pauses to reread sentences, sometimes for their beauty, sometimes for their truth . . . Eventually one realizes that beyond a portrait of the human condition--prey to isolation and loneliness, ever needful of faith and love--Robinson has subtly introduced that great heartbreaking theme of American history, the often divisive, unfulfilled quest for social and racial justice . . . Immensely moving . . . A] triumph of tone and imagination."--Michael Dirda, "The Washington Post Book World"
"Full of the penetrating intellect and artful prose that made "Housekeeping" a modern classic . . . A story that captures the splendors and pitfalls of being alive, viewed through the prism of how soon it all ends. The world could use . . . more novels this radiant and wise."--Kathryn Schwille, "The Atlanta Journal-Constitution"
"Robinson is a miraculous anomaly: a writer who thoughtfully, carefully, and tenaciously explores some of the deepest questions confronting the human species. A consummate artist, a scrupulous scholar, a believing Christian, and a genuinely radical thinker, Robinson approaches whatever she undertakes with the kind of gravitas one seldom encounters today. In place of the buzz-words and half-baked ideas that pass for conventional wisdom, she offers something truly unconventional and certainly much closer to wisdom . . . "Gilead" is] a poignant, absorbing, lyrically written novel and] a wonderfully readable book--moving, compelling, and fascinating in any number of ways . . . Robinson's decision to cast this novel as a letter endows it with a tremendous sense of immediacy and intimacy. Not only do we get to overhear a man in the deeply private process of thinking to himself, we also feel the urgency of his desire to share what he has learned with his son. Like all of Robinson's writing, "Gilead" is full of passages that beg to be read aloud, complex thoughts and emotions expressed with a felicity as engaging as it is illuminating . . . This is] thoughtful, luminous writing."--Merle Rubin, "Los Angeles Times Book Review"
"An urgent intervention, an argument for the continued relevance of faith'