2005 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction
2004 National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction
Written 25 years after Housekeeping, Gilead was worth the wait. Nearing the end of his life, a small-town Reverend writes letters to his young son, and learns some hard truths about himself along the way. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 2005, this brilliantly gorgeous novel will completely invade you. Combining large themes, deep emotions, and a compelling story, all of which are so perfectly realized on the page, it is absolutely astonishing. Recommended By Dianah H., Powells.com
Set in 1956, Marilynne Robinson's Gilead is a letter from the elderly Reverend John Ames to his very young son. Ames has lived all of his life in Gilead, Iowa, and the novel delves into the history of the area through the characters of Ames's father and grandfather — also ministers, but deeply divided on ideas such as pacifism, duty, and the abolitionist movement. And eventually, when John Ames Boughton, Ames's namesake and godson, returns to Gilead, he brings up old tensions and sets events in motion that disturb Ames's formerly peaceful last days. Gilead is one of the most beautifully written books of the new century thus far, and Robinson's incredibly insightful grappling with faith, mortality, and what constitutes a meaningful life will resonate with readers across every spectrum. Recommended By Jill O., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
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.
"[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
"[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
"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." The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
"[Gilead is] a poignant, absorbing, lyrically written novel [and] a wonderfully readable bookmoving, compelling, and fascinating in any number of ways....[This is] thoughtful, luminous writing." Los Angeles Times Book 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." Esquire
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.