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Gilead: A Novel

by

Gilead: A Novel Cover

 

Awards

2005 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction
2004 National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction

Staff Pick

A story about faith, love, history and growing old, this book is poignant and lovely. It is a long letter from a father who thinks he is soon to die, to his seven-year-old son. Robinson's command of language, her deep understanding of humanity, and her own religious study come together in this outstanding novel. It was worth the twenty-year wait.
Recommended by Beth, Powells.com

Review-A-Day

"There is a balm in Gilead, and I hope many people find it. For a country dazzled by literary and military pyrotechnics, this quiet new novel from Marilynne Robinson couldn't be less compatible with the times — or more essential....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 (read the entire Christian Science Monitor review)

"[N]early every sentence demands to be savored....There has been much talk lately about a religious divide in this country. Gilead, then, may be the perfect book at the perfect time: a deeply empathetic and complex picture of a religious person that is also gorgeously written, and fascinating." Anna Godbersen, Esquire (read the entire Esquire review)

"Gilead is an almost otherworldly book. Its characters are, to a one, good people trying to do right. Obviously a work of enormous integrity, it feels different in kind from the work of writers who produce a book every couple of years, rushing to meet alimony payments, one imagines, or wanting to renovate kitchens. One senses none of the rub of greed informing the writing of the book — but because it lacks the mess of life poking up from the bottom, one is also left without the urgency of fiction." Mona Simpson, The Atlantic Monthly (read the entire Atlantic Monthly review)

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

2005 Pulitzer Prize Winner for Fiction
 
2004 National Book Critics Circle Winner
 
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 Iowan 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 forged 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.

Marilynne Robinson is the author of the modern classic Housekeepingwinner of the PEN/Hemingway Awardand 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

Winner of the Grawemeyer Religion Prize

Named One of the Ten Best Books of 2004 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 Writing

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 fatheran ardent pacifistand 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 visionnot 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.

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize
 
"A beautiful workdemanding, 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 . . . 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)
"A beautiful workdemanding, 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 conditionprey to isolation and loneliness, ever needful of faith and loveRobinson 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 bookmoving, 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 Ange

Review:

"[A] second novel that, however quiet in tone and however delicate of step, will do no less than...break your heart....[A] novel as big as a nation, as quiet as thought, and moving as prayer. Matchless and towering." Kirkus Reviews

Review:

"[A] work of profound beauty and wonder....Millennia of philosophical musings and a century of American history are refracted through the prism of Robinson's exquisite and uplifting novel as she illuminates the heart of a mystic, poet, and humanist." Booklist

Review:

"[R]eligious, somewhat essayistic and fiercely calm....Gilead is a beautiful work — demanding, grave and lucid." James Wood, The New York Times Book Review

Synopsis:

In 1956, toward the end of Rev. John Ames's life, he begins a letter to his young son, an account of himself and his forebears. This is also the tale of wisdom forged during his solitary life and how history lives through generations, pervasively present even when betrayed and forgotten.

Synopsis:

The 2004 Pulitzer Prize winning novel

A New York Times Top-Ten Book of 2004

Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction

Nearly 25 years after Housekeeping, Marilynne Robinson returns with an intimate tale of three generations, from the Civil War to the 20th century: a story about fathers and sons and the spiritual battles that still rage at Americas heart. In the words of Kirkus, it is a novel “as big as a nation, as quiet as thought, and moving as prayer. Matchless and towering.” GILEAD tells the story of America and will break your heart.

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.
 
Gilead is the winner of the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

About the Author

Marilynne Robinson is the author of the modern classic Housekeeping--winner of the PEN/Hemingway Award--and two books of nonfiction, Mother Country (FSG, 1989) and The Death of Adam. She teaches at the University of Iowa Writers Workshop.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 6 comments:

Baochi, September 19, 2011 (view all comments by Baochi)
A few years ago, I bought a used copy of Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead because it won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2005 and I aim to read most -- if not all -- Pulitzer Prize Fiction winners through the ages. However, I was in no hurry to read Gilead based on its synopsis. The combination of a seventy-something protagonist, an obscure town setting, and a religious theme just didn’t sound like the page-turning story that I confess I’m always looking to read. Eventually, I had the good sense (or dumb luck) to pack Gilead alongside several other books for a solo vacation a couple of years ago.

I love when my negative assumptions are completely upended, and the object of my assumption is revealed in beautiful truth. That’s exactly what happened with Gilead. What I thought would be a boring novel turned out to be a profoundly transforming one.

The story is narrated by minister John Ames, who is seventy-six and dying. As a gift to his seven year-old son, John shares his meditations on life, love, family, friendship and forgiveness. He describes three generations of Ames men, the misunderstandings between them, their love. Whether John is pondering a moment or a lifetime, he is never far from its spiritual significance. Those soulful musings -- rather than coming off as preachy or unwelcome or scriptural -- are delivered gently, simply. The prose is spare yet arresting and beautiful. Gilead is an experience…and yes, a spiritual one I am grateful for.

Read some of my favorite passages from Gilead below and perhaps you’ll get a tiny glimpse of what I mean about this special book.

"These people who can see right through you never quite do you justice, because they never give you credit for the effort you’re making to be better than you actually are, which is difficult and well meant and deserving of some little notice."

"Sometimes I have loved the peacefulness of an ordinary Sunday. It is like standing in a newly planted garden after a warm rain. You can feel the silent and invisible life.”

"Memory can make a thing seem to have been much more than it was."
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(2 of 2 readers found this comment helpful)
dustinpattison, January 1, 2011 (view all comments by dustinpattison)
This is an absolutely beautiful and thoughtful book brimming with wisdom and insight and humanity. When reading Gilead, one is (almost against one's will) slowed down to a pace closer to the one in which it must have been written. This was my introduction to Marilynne Robinson and she is already my hero. Buy - and savor - this book!

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Nikki Rhodes, July 28, 2008 (view all comments by Nikki Rhodes)
Robinson's prose is so light you can sort of fly through it, not with regard to speed but just to the physical feeling of reading this book. While you get wrapped up in the characters, like any story, the writing here is the main attraction for me. It's enough to make me look at more of Robinson's work.
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(5 of 11 readers found this comment helpful)
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780374153892
Subtitle:
A Novel
Publisher:
Picador
Author:
Robinson, Marilynne
Author:
Jerome, Tim
Location:
New York
Subject:
General
Subject:
Fathers and sons
Subject:
Clergy
Subject:
General Fiction
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Christian fiction
Subject:
Domestic fiction
Copyright:
Edition Number:
1st ed.
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
November 2004
Binding:
Electronic book text in proprietary or open standard format
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
7 cds, 9 hours
Pages:
256
Dimensions:
8.29 x 5.49 x 0.7 in

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Related Subjects

Featured Titles » Pulitzer Prize Winners
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » Featured Titles
Religion » Western Religions » Religious Fiction

Gilead: A Novel Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$ In Stock
Product details 256 pages Farrar Straus Giroux - English 9780374153892 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

A story about faith, love, history and growing old, this book is poignant and lovely. It is a long letter from a father who thinks he is soon to die, to his seven-year-old son. Robinson's command of language, her deep understanding of humanity, and her own religious study come together in this outstanding novel. It was worth the twenty-year wait.

"Review A Day" by , "There is a balm in Gilead, and I hope many people find it. For a country dazzled by literary and military pyrotechnics, this quiet new novel from Marilynne Robinson couldn't be less compatible with the times — or more essential....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." (read the entire Christian Science Monitor review)
"Review A Day" by , "[N]early every sentence demands to be savored....There has been much talk lately about a religious divide in this country. Gilead, then, may be the perfect book at the perfect time: a deeply empathetic and complex picture of a religious person that is also gorgeously written, and fascinating." (read the entire Esquire review)
"Review A Day" by , "Gilead is an almost otherworldly book. Its characters are, to a one, good people trying to do right. Obviously a work of enormous integrity, it feels different in kind from the work of writers who produce a book every couple of years, rushing to meet alimony payments, one imagines, or wanting to renovate kitchens. One senses none of the rub of greed informing the writing of the book — but because it lacks the mess of life poking up from the bottom, one is also left without the urgency of fiction." (read the entire Atlantic Monthly review)
"Review" by , "[A] second novel that, however quiet in tone and however delicate of step, will do no less than...break your heart....[A] novel as big as a nation, as quiet as thought, and moving as prayer. Matchless and towering."
"Review" by , "[A] work of profound beauty and wonder....Millennia of philosophical musings and a century of American history are refracted through the prism of Robinson's exquisite and uplifting novel as she illuminates the heart of a mystic, poet, and humanist."
"Review" by , "[R]eligious, somewhat essayistic and fiercely calm....Gilead is a beautiful work — demanding, grave and lucid."
"Synopsis" by , In 1956, toward the end of Rev. John Ames's life, he begins a letter to his young son, an account of himself and his forebears. This is also the tale of wisdom forged during his solitary life and how history lives through generations, pervasively present even when betrayed and forgotten.
"Synopsis" by ,
The 2004 Pulitzer Prize winning novel

A New York Times Top-Ten Book of 2004

Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction

Nearly 25 years after Housekeeping, Marilynne Robinson returns with an intimate tale of three generations, from the Civil War to the 20th century: a story about fathers and sons and the spiritual battles that still rage at Americas heart. In the words of Kirkus, it is a novel “as big as a nation, as quiet as thought, and moving as prayer. Matchless and towering.” GILEAD tells the story of America and will break your heart.

"Synopsis" by ,
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.
 
Gilead is the winner of the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.
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