The setting of this story is Gilead, a small town somewhere in Iowa, 1956. The characters: our protagonist and narrator, the aged Reverend John Ames, son and grandson of pastors likewise named; his father, a devout pacifist; his grandfather, a fiery warrior of an abolitionist. What unfolds is a memoir intended for the young and only son Ames will leave behind, the only inheritance his son will own besides sixty years of written sermons. As Rev. Ames relates the contours of his life -- the tensions between his grandfather and father and the tensions of the two of them within his own soul, his love for his long pastorate and his beloved second wife and son -- we are caught up in a progression of unassuming detail and later disclosure of its complexity and weight. The plotline is minimal yet compelling, carried along by apparently rambling reflection brimming with wisdom and deft human portraiture. Robinson's long-awaited second novel (after her widely-praised first, Housekeeping
, written over twenty years ago) is unabashedly and disarmingly religious. There is no ''text'' and ''subtext,'' only a vision of the splendor emerging from places and relationships honestly and lovingly described. 247 pp.
An Eighth Day View:
Twenty-four years after her first novel, "Housekeeping," Marilynne Robinson returns with an intimate tale of three generations from the Civil War to the twentieth century: a story about fathers and sons and the spiritual battles that still rage at America's heart. Writing in the tradition of Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman, Marilynne Robinson's beautiful, spare, and spiritual prose allows "even the faithless reader to feel the possibility of transcendent order" ("Slate"). In the luminous and unforgettable voice of Congregationalist minister John Ames, Gilead reveals the human condition and the often unbearable beauty of an ordinary life. "Gilead "is the winner of the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.