Friday, April 13, 2012

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson - A Review


Gilead - A Novel
by Marilynne Robinson

Set in Gilead, a small town in Iowa that, in the novel, has been hit hard by war, depression, and drought. This book takes place in the 1950's.

The main character, the narrator in this case, is John Ames, a fictional Congregational minister. Also included are John Ames Boughton (Jack), Old Boughton, John's wife and son.

The book is a narrative written by the father/minister (John Ames) to his young son. The Reverend has found out that he has a heart condition (he is in his seventies) and decides to write to his young son during the last few weeks or months of his life. The minister's best friend (Old Boughton) has a son whom he has named after the minister, John Ames Boughton, who is nicknamed Jack in the book. Jack has had a questionable past, and comes back to town, creating conflict all around.

This book is hard to read in the sense that there is mostly just narration of events that took place in the narrator's past and present. There's not a lot of dialogue (there is some, but not a lot), and there are no chapter designations, although the book is divided into pretty small sections based on the narrator's thoughts. (I love chapters, it's easy to remember "I'm on chapter 4!")

The main story is about the family's interaction with Jack who has just returned to town after a long absence. We find out why Jack has been gone so long (which had been a mystery) and what his plans are for the future. Jack interacts with John's wife and child, and John continually wonders what Jack's intentions are, and tells about Jack's past.  

The book is very good once you get to the end. If you can hang through the narration, you will be pleased. I recommend this book very highly, and I would definitely be interested in reading the author's other novels.

Enjoy your day and your latest book!


  1. I have a friend who just gushes about this book. I began reading it, but had difficulty keeping with it. I got distracted with other things. I keep meaning to go back to it. Thanks for the review. :)

  2. I love this book. The sequel/companion novel, Home, is good, too. I tried to read Robinson's first novel, Housekeeping, but I had the same trouble with it that you mention with Gilead: not enough action, plot, or dialogue. Oh, well, two winners out of three is not bad.

  3. I loved this too. Read the sequel "Home" next! It is about Jack and his father.

    1. Thanks for the suggestion, Sherry & Nicola! I will look for "Home." Thanks for visiting!