Gilead (Review)

Labels: A Lighter Touch

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Gilead
Marilyn Robinson, 2004
247 pp.

Book Review by Molly Lundquist
October 2008

A treasure of a book. While based upon Biblical scripture, it's illuminating for any faith. It is about the requirement of living up to the best parts of ourselves—and about the blessing and awe and mystery of all existence. It's a lot packed into a fairly small book.

The Reverend John Ames, 76 when the book opens, takes it upon himself to write a series of letters in the hope that when death over takes him—sooner, he believes, rather than later—his very young son will have a personal record of his father and the faith that has informed his life and work.

Robinson shows us Christianity writ large, an expansive but difficult faith, which calls upon us to put aside petty anger and accept a divine requirement to love our enemy—in this case John Ames's godson and namesake, the prodigal son of his dearest friend. Oh, but this is hard work, even for a man as devoted, loving and studied as Ames himself.

I've listed this book as a "Lighter Touch"—not because of its subject matter but because of its accessibility, particularly on a topic often found in the weighty realm of theology. With little plot and some overly drawn-out areas, Gilead is still a beautiful, intimate book about the power of love, human and divine. Read with a pencil and be prepared to make a note of passage after passage.

See our Reading Guide for Gilead.

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