Thoughts gbymr by Marilynne Robinson, Picador 2004, 247 pages, tradeback

In my unofficial accidental project to read all the Pulitzers, I found this on my shelf thanks to good friend Holly.

“The idea of grace had been so much on my mind, grace as a sort of ecstatic fire that takes things down to essentials.” p.197

I loved it. It is quiet but also toiling & boiling with emotion; It is one long letter from an old man to his very young son. So no, not a heavy action plot-pushed adventure, but shared thoughts on life and family and place based on experience and memories. Gildead is a fictional town in Iowa.

The father is almost 80 years old; his son is 7. The father is a Christian Reverend responsible and dutiful in gentle care of his congregation in small town America – in this tale it is Iowa but we dip often into Kansas and the history of abolitionism through the work of his grandfather.

(LINK!  Mention of John Brown and the border wars of Kansas and Missouri give me more points of motivation for McBride’s The Good Lord Bird.)

Maybe a lot doesn’t HAPPEN (except in memory) in this but a lot of heavy issues are explored and considered. Race and history, father and sons, friendship, and family expectations. Certainly a contemplative book but strong emotions are examined against the history of evolving relationships.

“This is an important thing, which I have told many people, and which my father told me, and which his father told him. When you encounter another person, when you have dealings with anyone at all, it is as if a question is being put to you. So you must think, What is the Lord asking of me in this moment, in this situation? If you confront insult or antagonism, your first impulse will be to respond in kind. But if you think, benefit is intended for me, first of all the occasion to demonstrate my faithfulness, the chance to show that I do in some small degree participate in the grace that saved me, you are free to act otherwise than as circumstances would seem to dictate. You are free to act by your own lights. You are freed at the same time of the impulse to hate or resent that person.” p.124

p.71 crepuscular |krəˈpəskyələr| – adjective – “of, resembling, or relating to twilight.”

Rating: Five slices of pie.

“The women put the pies and cakes they had brought and the books that could still be used into our wagon and then covered the bed with planks and tarps and lap robes.”     (pie and books mentioned in ONE sentence, p. 95)



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19 thoughts on “Gilead

  1. You make me think that maybe I tried this when I wasn’t in a contemplative enough mood. The religious vocabulary also turned me off. Some day I’ll try again, though, since you liked it.

    1. I could say that I didn’t really even see any “religious-y” vocabulary. I can be fascinated by the concepts and in this, the simple beauty of the language. I suppose I could describe myself as an apathetic/ambivalent Christian, surely and certainly ‘lapsed’, but I do appreciate the reasoned argument. Strong non-pushy faith appeals to me.

    1. Yea, little action, though some provocative events, perhaps. All in hindsight. That’s OK, sometimes it is refreshing to read a review and NOT think it must go on the tbr. 😉

  2. I tried reading this one a few years ago, and I ended up DNFing. The writing was gorgeous, but the slow moving plot stalled me. I definitely think it was more of a mood problem than anything, so I’ll likely try again.

  3. I get that. I can’t think of too many people I could recommend this to without considering their being in the right frame of mind when they actually do decide to read it. Still, I thought it wonderful.

  4. litandlife

    I LOVED this book – it’s maybe the only book that I intentionally read slowly because it was so beautiful and I didn’t want it to end.

  5. Pingback: February Classics Club Meme #ccmeme | Care's Online Book Club

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