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2005 Pulitzer Prize Winner for Fiction
2004 National Book Critics Circle Winner
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.
Publishers Weekly Review
© Publishers Weekly
I have been an avid reader for 50 years. Never have I finished a book, and immediately started over again until this book. The writing is so beautiful, so poetically simple, so lusciously written, I found myself sharing passages with my friends (another first for me). It is a beautiful, subtly written story of a truly self-examined life. I am an agnostic, so the fact that I could relate to and admire the main character in this book is another testament to this author's great talent.
Sometimes we have all felt alone in this world and a certain person shows up as an Angel of God to guide you. This book and its Author were that friend to me in that time. Those last 2 sentences I just wrote make reading this book to simple. Simple it is anything but. Profound to me in so many ways.... To the Author 'mutatis mutandis' thank you for my saving Grace in my spirit, heart, and mind. Your book was scripture in my essence and my God as he is known to me and a reminder of grace and thought. Thank you Marilynne Robinson