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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.
Publisher: ** E-Book // Click on DOWNLOAD link to place holds
ISBN: 9780374706098
Branch Call Number: EBOOK TEXT
Alternative Title: Gilead : a novel


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IndyPL_SteveB Jul 14, 2019

If you ever see a booklist on the subject of “the experience of being a human” and the list does NOT include *Gilead*, don’t trust the list. This is one of the absolute best American novels and should be a long-term classic. Marilynne Robinson is sometimes listed as one of the great American writers, and this book is graceful and inspired evidence of that.

John Ames, a 76-year old Congregationalist preacher in the small Iowa town of Gilead, has heart disease. He is still preaching and doing everything he can to help his church members; but he knows he doesn’t have too many months left to live. He begins to write a series of letters to his son to explain his family’s “begats”; but it turns into a self-examination of what John appreciates and regrets about his life.

We soon understand that John’s son is only 10 years old and John has had a complicated life. He seems to be thinking that he is going to write about death and history. But he can’t keep that up long; because he is more interested in the life around him.

Since the narrator is a committed Christian, the story is deeply immersed in that viewpoint. But interestingly, the book is not really “Christian” fiction; i.e., the author is not writing this book to convert anyone to Christianity. The book shows life viewed through the eyes of a narrator who happens to be a Christian, with all of the failings and virtues of many good people. I think anyone who values seeing the world through different eyes, whether a Christian or not, would get equal value from this novel.

The writing is deep, thoughtful, and beautiful. It’s a short novel but not something I could read rapidly. Every few paragraphs, I drifted off on memories of my own, as the writer stimulated parts of my brain that had been stored away.

Jun 23, 2019

This Gilead, Home, actually stands as the 1st book of Marilynne Robinson's 3 title Gilead series.
Book 1, title of Gilead, pub yr 2004: book 2 of title Home, yr 2008, and Lila, book 3, yr 2014.

Her novel, Gilead, won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction Best Book in year 2005.

I had not read the first and second book in the series when I read Lila.

Robinson teaches at the famous University of Iowa Writers' Workshop. She has also published 9 theme based nonfiction titles.
Robinson has either been nominated for, or won, eleven recognitions by highly acclaimed prize granting organization, for her writing, thru yr 2016.

Please consider reading at least one of Robinson's novels.

Feb 22, 2019

No copies available at this time (2-22-19)

JCLMandaW Dec 14, 2018

I wanted to like it, I really did.

RogerDeBlanck Jul 24, 2018

Gilead chronicles the life of John Ames, a seventy year-old preacher, dying of heart disease. The novel takes place in the small town of Gilead, Iowa, and the narrative is written from Ames’s perspective as he undertakes an extended letter to his seven year-old son. The contents of the letters take on the nature of self-revelatory prayers from the deeply religious Ames, whose voice conveys more than remembrances, reflections, and advice. His ideas also begin to reveal a developing story focused on Ames’s concerns and suspicions about his namesake, his best friend’s son, named John Jack Boughton. Jack clings to a secret of tremendous moral proportions. In addition, the novel examines three generations of ministers in the Ames’s family. But the resonant power of the book plays out in the beauty of Robinson’s language. Her passages brim with intense spiritual intuitiveness and immense wisdom. Gilead is a towering achievement of modern literature. It is the type of book destined to be a classic.

May 26, 2018

A deeply empathetic masterpiece that presents deep devotion encountering vulnerability and uncertainty.

Mar 30, 2018

What happened to the 'amazing prose' she was able to write for Housekeeping?

Sep 05, 2016

Yes, yes, and yes again. A lovely book constructed with care and beauty. Gives hope to the world that a writer produces a book such as this.

Mar 12, 2016

John Ames, a preacher in the small town of Gilead, Iowa believes he doesn’t have long to live so he writes a series of letters to his young son. Ames asks “What should I record for you? … And what else should I tell you?” Ames’ letters end up being a different type of instruction than he initially intended. The letters start off aimless and inconsistent but gain focus as Ames turns more introspective. All those years of writing his sermons, “trying to say what was true”, leaves him unprepared for his own moral crisis. He recognizes it as such, wondering what he would tell a parishioner that came to him with the same problems.

Ames weaves together current events in his life with the history of his father and grandfather, both of them preachers as well. In going back over his family history, Ames describes the role of religion in settling the Midwestern states as well the personal role of religion in the inhabitants’ lives. All of this history ultimately narrows to the role of faith and grace in Ames’ own life. His good friend’s son, John Ames Boughton (Jack), returns to Gilead ostensibly to take care of his father. Ames initially believes Jack plans to continue his life-long vexation of his family as well as Ames, but through much thought and prayer he looks at Jack with a perspective of grace. "I could forget all the tedious particulars and just feel the presence of his mortal and immortal being...He did then seem to be the angel of himself, brooding over the mysteries his mortal life describes, the deep things of man.” This soothes Ames, not just from his own standpoint but also because of prevenient grace, “which precedes grace itself and allows us to accept it.”

"It has seemed to me sometimes as though the Lord breathes on this poor grey ember of Creation and it turns to radiance -- for a moment or a year or the span of a life." This transformation, of hope to realization or maybe also from ordinary to extraordinary, includes what Marilynne Robinson has done with John Ames' life.

Jan 02, 2016

Well worth the "listen." Beautifully written. Deep insight into personalities.

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Apr 09, 2014

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Feb 21, 2011

an intimate tale of three generations, from the Civil War to the 20th century: a story about fathers and sons and the spiritual battles that still rage at America's heart


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