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Gilead: An Oprah's Book Club Pick by [Marilynne Robinson]

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Gilead: An Oprah's Book Club Pick New Ed Edition, Kindle Edition

4.2 out of 5 stars 8,767 ratings

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Books in this series: (1 books)
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Product description Review

In 1981, Marilynne Robinson wrote Housekeeping, which won the PEN/Hemingway Award and became a modern classic. Since then, she has written two pieces of nonfiction: Mother Country and The Death of Adam. With Gilead, we have, at last, another work of fiction. As with The Great Fire, Shirley Hazzards's return, 22 years after The Transit of Venus, it was worth the long wait. Books such as these take time, and thought, and a certain kind of genius. There are no invidious comparisons to be made. Robinson's books are unalike in every way but one: the same incisive thought and careful prose illuminate both.

The narrator, John Ames, is 76, a preacher who has lived almost all of his life in Gilead, Iowa. He is writing a letter to his almost seven-year-old son, the blessing of his second marriage. It is a summing-up, an apologia, a consideration of his life. Robinson takes the story away from being simply the reminiscences of one man and moves it into the realm of a meditation on fathers and children, particularly sons, on faith, and on the imperfectability of man.

The reason for the letter is Ames's failing health. He wants to leave an account of himself for this son who will never really know him. His greatest regret is that he hasn't much to leave them, in worldly terms. "Your mother told you I'm writing your begats, and you seemed very pleased with the idea. Well, then. What should I record for you?" In the course of the narrative, John Ames records himself, inside and out, in a meditative style. Robinson's prose asks the reader to slow down to the pace of an old man in Gilead, Iowa, in 1956. Ames writes of his father and grandfather, estranged over his grandfather's departure for Kansas to march for abolition and his father's lifelong pacifism. The tension between them, their love for each other and their inability to bridge the chasm of their beliefs is a constant source of rumination for John Ames. Fathers and sons.

The other constant in the book is Ames's friendship since childhood with "old Boughton," a Presbyterian minister. Boughton, father of many children, favors his son, named John Ames Boughton, above all others. Ames must constantly monitor his tendency to be envious of Boughton's bounteous family; his first wife died in childbirth and the baby died almost immediately after her. Jack Boughton is a ne'er-do-well, Ames knows it and strives to love him as he knows he should. Jack arrives in Gilead after a long absence, full of charm and mischief, causing Ames to wonder what influence he might have on Ames's young wife and son when Ames dies.

These are the things that Ames tells his son about: his ancestors, the nature of love and friendship, the part that faith and prayer play in every life and an awareness of one's own culpability. There is also reconciliation without resignation, self-awareness without deprecation, abundant good humor, philosophical queries--Jack asks, "'Do you ever wonder why American Christianity seems to wait for the real thinking to be done elsewhere?'"--and an ongoing sense of childlike wonder at the beauty and variety of God's world.

In Marilynne Robinson's hands, there is a balm in Gilead, as the old spiritual tells us. --Valerie Ryan

--This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.


“There are passages here of such profound, hard-won wisdom and spiritual insight that they make your own life seem richer…Gilead [is] a quiet, deep celebration of life that you must not miss.” ―Ron Charles, The Christian Science Monitor

“The long wait has been worth it… Robinson's prose is beautiful, shimmering, and precise… destined to become her second classic.” ―
Publishers Weekly, starred review

“There is a lot of pleasure to be had in the novel's probing, thoughtful narrative voice.” ―
Matt Murray, The Wall Street Journal

Gilead is a beautiful work… Robinson's words have a spiritual force that's very rare in contemporary fiction.” ―James Wood, The New York Times Book Review

“Lyrical and meditative… potently contemplative.” ―
Michael Orecklin, Time

--This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.

Product details

  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B002TXZR4U
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Virago; New Ed edition (7 May 2009)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • File size ‏ : ‎ 374 KB
  • Text-to-Speech ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • Screen Reader ‏ : ‎ Supported
  • Enhanced typesetting ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • X-Ray ‏ : ‎ Not Enabled
  • Word Wise ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 289 pages
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.2 out of 5 stars 8,767 ratings

About the author

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Marilynne Robinson is the author of the bestselling novels "Lila," "Home" (winner of the Orange Prize), "Gilead" (winner of the Pulitzer Prize), and "Housekeeping" (winner of the PEN/Hemingway Award).

She has also written four books of nonfiction, "When I Was a Child I Read Books," "Absence of Mind," "Mother Country" and "The Death of Adam." She teaches at the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop.

She has been given honorary degrees from Brown University, the University of the South, Holy Cross, Notre Dame, Amherst, Skidmore, and Oxford University. She was also elected a fellow of Mansfield College, Oxford University.

Customer reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5
8,767 global ratings

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5.0 out of 5 stars A Town and its People
Reviewed in India 🇮🇳 on 2 June 2020
Certainly, I am at a loss when I have to write about this book and Robinson’s writing. Let me begin by saying what this book is about. It is a letter written by a father to his son, it is a letter written by a Reverend telling his son about his life and of Gilead, the town which he never wishes to part with. It is a heartfelt letter extolling the beauty of life and grieving the fact that there so many things that one won’t be able to witness. It is a letter accepting the inevitability of life, of the mortal body and of all the happiness and sadness one has lived through. The book is written in a stream of consciousness wherein we see Reverend Ames popping in and out of his past and present beatifically. Reverend Ames said all that any father wishes to tell their child(ren) but they are afraid of not being rightly expressive. This book was a hug, a soft, warm hug from a man who has seen his life and those of many others pass by him. I think there is something special about this kind of warmth which breathes age and experience, and which we more often than not don’t appreciate. The author was successful in bringing this character alive, she made me believe that Reverend Ames is a real character, a real person which I think is perhaps true. I felt my father speak to me and tell me all the ups and downs of his life being full aware of his sentiments and his vulnerabilities. Reverend Ames is a man whose love for life, whose determination to brave every eventuality and to remain loyal to all his relations shall always inspire me and guide me when I am at my weakest. I cannot wait to finish the other books in this series and read the latest instalment in September!
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2.0 out of 5 stars Unstructured ramble from a pompous preacher
Reviewed in the United Kingdom 🇬🇧 on 24 July 2020
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Bryn Griffith
5.0 out of 5 stars Stellar writer worth your time.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom 🇬🇧 on 23 April 2017
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Luke Dennison
4.0 out of 5 stars Profound and beautiful
Reviewed in the United Kingdom 🇬🇧 on 6 April 2022
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Guy McLain
2.0 out of 5 stars Give me that old time religion
Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on 22 October 2020
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John Fox
5.0 out of 5 stars Serious and moving
Reviewed in the United Kingdom 🇬🇧 on 4 March 2019
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