Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

This is another short post as I am still trying to catch up with writing about the books I’ve read in February. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson is one of them. It is narrated by the Reverend John Ames as he nears the end of his life. Set in Gilead, Iowa in 1956 John Ames is 76, dying of heart disease, and writing a letter to his young son aged 7 telling him the things he would have told him if he had lived to see him grow up. A letter for his son to read when he is an adult.

Ames writes stories of his brother, and his father and grandfather, including tales of what had happened in Gilead, such as the story of the horse that sank into the ground into one of the tunnels the inhabitants had made and the lengths they had gone to get it out and fill in the hole. He also wrote about his beliefs and his relationship with his friend, also a preacher, Boughton and Boughton’s son, Jack. There is a mystery surrounding Jack, what is the ‘great sin’ he committed, why he had left home, what happened to him and why he had come back. Jack is named after John, who struggles to forgive and understand Jack.

In parts I found this a bit rambling and repetitive, reflecting the fact that Ames wrote over a period of time and probably forgot he’d mentioned things before, or because he was emphasising their importance – such as the first time he met his wife, who is a lot younger than him.

I took my time reading because you do have to concentrate and not rush to find out what happened. I enjoyed it and think I would probably get even more out of it on a second reading, especially for the philosophical and religious ideas.

Reading Challenges: Mount TBR Reading Challenge ( a book I’ve owned for about 8 years).

5 thoughts on “Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

  1. Not only does this benefit from a second read, but I also think you will get more out of it if you go on to read ‘Home’ and ‘Lila’ which fill in a lot of gaps.


  2. It sounds like one of those books one reads in bits and digests, Margaret. And those can really be worth the effort. Glad you thought this was worth the read.


  3. Margaret I just read this on audio on one of our many trips back and forth moving this winter. At first I I thought I might change books but kept on long enough to get pulled into the mystery of Jack and read on. I’m glad I did. It is a slow reader, but worth the investment for sure. I learned to really enjoy just sitting there listening to ‘John’s’ voice pour over me. There is a lot really in this book, a mystery, history of the civil war era and faith and philosophy. My old boss, a pastor, gave me this book for Christmas ages ago and I never did get to it. I’m glad I first read the audio version. I do have Home on the shelf to read.


Comments are closed.