Reading Gilead

  • Books on My Shelf 2013

Welcome back to SunnyRoomStudio.  This week, from my shelf, I selected Gilead by Marilynne Robinson.  Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, I enjoyed this novel–found it unforgettable–for many reasons.

Published in 2004 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Robinson’s book offers a profound look at what it means to leave behind a meaningful message for someone you love (for a young son) when you know your own death is imminent.

Thus, this is not the kind of book one rushes through … rather the wise reader savors it, absorbing each page ever so slowly.

Gilead was published 24 years after Robinson’s first novel.  Her protagonist is the minister, John Ames, and when he finds out his health is seriously declining, he begins a letter to his son: in fact, most of the book is the actual letter he is writing.

His letter is thoughtful, deliberate, and clearly conveys his misgivings about death.  Yet, Ames also captures the undeniable eloquence of life.

“Though I must say all this has given me a new glimpse of the ongoingness of the world.  We fly as forgotten as a dream, certainly leaving the forgetful world behind us to trample and mar and misplace everything we have ever cared for.  That is just the way of it, and it is remarkable.”

John Ames also has a special appreciation for the prairie, noting: “I love the prairie!  So often I have seen the dawn come and the light flood over the land and everything turn radiant at once, that word good so profoundly affirmed in my soul that I am amazed I should be allowed to witness such a thing.”

  • I also loved this novel because it’s impossible not to empathize with the characters.  All of them moving through life just like we all do: wondering, worrying, exploring, and doing the best we can to accept the impermanence of life.

The book ends like this: “I’ll pray that you grow up a brave man in a brave country.  I will pray you find a way to be useful.”  Then, after a space, “I’ll pray, and then I’ll sleep.”

  • If you were writing a letter like this what kind of advice would you include?  If you’re not sure, read Gilead.  It’s quite wonderful.  ~ dh

Thanks for visiting SunnyRoomStudio: a creative, sunny space for kindred spirits.

Looking for book suggestions? 

 I maintain an informal list here in SRS.  See top menu or click here.

 See you again Friday, December 20th, as I continue to share the books on my shelf.

I hope you are also digging into the books on your shelves.  Dusting them off.  Opening to page “whatever.”
Sit down, read your favorite chapter.  Read the first page, the last page.

 Journal about your discoveries.  A book is just a book until you read it for the second time.

 Enjoy the journey. ~ dh

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