Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson


Three stars, read in December 2015.

I wish I had read this book ten years ago, or even five, because I know it would have meant much more to me back then. So many beautiful philosophical thoughts are expressed by the book’s narrator, especially toward the beginning, and I was enthralled for the first several chapters. It was such a cozy feeling (not hampered at all, I must say, by Tim Jerome’s gorgeous voice), and I loved the idea of John Ames writing about his father and grandfather to his own son.

I lost patience with him a bit around the middle of the book, when he was so incessantly critical of Jack Boughton—who, it’s true, was a spiteful child and made fairly large mistakes as a young adult—but whose primary lasting fault seems to be that he’s not religious. The book takes place in the 1950s, and Ames was born in the 1880s, so the attitude toward atheists is not surprising; but actually, he’s otherwise such a thoughtful and intentional character, so kind-hearted and open-minded, that I have a hard time believing he wouldn’t have long ago broken down that barrier that makes religious people think it’s impossible for an atheist to be good. That relationship evolved in a much sweeter way than I expected it to, so I still ended the book with warm fuzzies—just, strangely, fewer than I started it with.

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