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National Book Critics Circle Award, Fiction, 2005
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 50, 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.
"The long wait has been worth it....Robinson's prose is beautiful, shimmering, and precise....Destined to become her second classic." ( Publishers Weekly)
"[ Gilead] is so serenely beautiful, and written in a prose so gravely measured and thoughtful, that one feels touched with grace just to read it." ( The Washington Post Book World)
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Penelope Wisner on 04-18-05
A book for dreaming over
Usually, I gobble books. Not this one. Exquisitely written, it begs the reader to pause, to ponder, to wonder, to marvel. So delicate, like leaves rustling in a light breeze. As the narrator ponders his life, so you cannot help but ponder your own. Here is a book full of spirit, a sermon if you like, without the preaching down to the reader. Instead it is an invitation to think with compassion about oneself, one's failings, one's relationships with God and man. Amazing.
61 of 62 people found this review helpful
By Aging Boomer on 10-05-08
A perfect reading
"Gilead" is one of the most profound, deeply moving novels of our time. Its portrayal of human nature and existence in a universe pervaded by God would perhaps have seemed natural a century and more ago; today, it is a revelation. More than once, this novel made me weep, something that no book has ever before done. How fortunate, then, that this blessed novel has been blessed with a great reader. His voice, intonation and pace are ideal for the character of John Ames, the story's ostensible narrator. A perfect reading of a perfect novel: what more could one ask of an audible.com offering?
29 of 29 people found this review helpful