Review: Gilead


Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I can see why this book won a Pulitzer. The prose is as delicious and wonderful as any book I have ever read. With a little thought, I might be able to say it was the most delicious and wonderful prose I’ve ever read. I enjoyed following the deep intellectual moral wanderings of an aging pastor from a family of pastors. I enjoyed reading an account of the personal tragedy and moral grapplings of abolitionist violence incited in Kansas before the civil war. Stories of old pastors who preached with a gun on their belt who wouldn’t hesitate to shoot a confederate soldier in the street really challenge our black-and-white ideas of a “good vs evil” war. But this book is not about war. It is a touching, 300 page letter from an old father (77) to a young son (7) who knows, because of his late marriage and fatherhood, that his son will grow up never really knowing who he was. Marilynne Robinson weaves themes of violence and racism seamlessly into a story that is, at its core, about inter-generational family love. The format is off-putting. It is a novel with no chapter breaks and no plot that skips around considerably. It is essentially exactly what the protagonist meant it to be, a longhand autobiographical letter. I will keep this on my shelf forever and know I can come back and turn to a random page for inspiration on how to write beautiful and at the same time intellectually stimulating prose.

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Victor A. Davis has always loved reading and writing short stories. He is an avid hiker and even when away from the world of laptops and wifi, keeps a pocket paperback and a handwritten journal to keep him company on trail. He is the author of two short story collections, Grains of Sand and The Gingerbread Collection. Join his Mailing List for special announcements about upcoming works.