Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Gilead - Winner, Fiction, 2005


Gilead
by: Marilynne Robinson
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2004

As you can tell, I have skipped ahead quite a few years. My husband and I had a long road trip this past weekend and I thought there would be no better time to get an entire book knocked out. We found Gilead on CD and it was the perfect length for our trip.

Gilead is a kind of letter/journal "written" by Rev. John Ames, a pastor in his late seventies, to his 7-year old son. Ames knows that he will not be around to watch his son grow up or to instruct him in the ways of life. So, he writes this letter to his son - full of family history and tips on life. Ames tells the stories of his grandfather, a pastor heavily involved in the raids of abolitionist John Brown; his father, a pastor also, who deals bitterly with the family's violent past and associations; and, finally, himself and his dealings with his best friend's son who is like his own. Ames also comments on his son's daily activities and shares life lessons.

I would not necessarily recommend listening to this book in an audio format. I haven't looked at an actual copy of the book, but I think it might do a better job of cutting the book up into journal entries. The book is also not chronological, so I would often find that if I zoned out even for a minute I didn't know if he was talking about his father, grandfather, son, godson, or himself. It is interesting, though, because it reads like any journal a person would write recording their memories. Memories don't always come in chronological order. Sometimes a memory leads Ames to remember an important lesson he learned from that event and he proceeds to expound on it.

Coming from the family of a pastor, Gilead had special significance for me. To hear the thoughts and struggles of a pastor reminded me much of what my own father has had to deal with over the years. It is a touching story of how the generations that come before shape what we become, but also how we can learn from the mistakes of our predecessors. I feel that Gilead might be a book I would purchase to have on my bookshelf and reread in the future.

8 comments:

Emily said...

I had to read that line twice...the one about the pastor in his late 70s writing to his 7 year old son.

Sounds like an interesting read!

AK said...

Yes - it is odd. I didn't know how much detail to go into. He married his childhood sweetheart young and she died in childbirth as did the baby. He didn't marry again until he was 70 - when he married someone in her 30s. I guess it happens...

Anthony said...

I agree with Allison's recommendation of not listening to the audio version of this book... especially at night, on a dark road, in the pouring rain.

Ashley Cook said...

ok, I hate to be technical but it doesn't count if you don't actually read it...

AK said...

Oh yes it does! I'll do anything I can to get things done!

Kimberly said...

Ryan read Gilead some time in the last year or so and when he would breifly tell me about it piqued my interest. I think I would still like to read it some time, even more after reading your description because I enjoy stories that show how the past shapes the future in people's family lives.

Kimberly said...

Ryan read Gilead some time in the last year or so and when he would breifly tell me about it piqued my interest. I think I would still like to read it some time, even more after reading your description because I enjoy stories that show how the past shapes the future in people's family lives.

RC said...

ak! I love Gilead it's my favorite.

I'm glad you've caught this one (remember, I'm all caught up to date on most of the pulitzer's from the past 10 years in fiction).

But i can understand how audio-car wise this might not work the best...

It's more of a read in the dark with a flashlight and a blanket type of book (not too long...but more of an engrossing, listening to an old man in a quiet room so you're concentrating type of way).

my grandfather was a pastor of small churches in the mid-west and so I connected in that way as well.