Review: Gilead (Gilead #1) – Marilynne Robinson

Gilead (Gilead #1) – Marilynne Robinson

Gilead (Gilead, #1)

Title: Gilead (Gilead #1)

Author: Marilynne Robinson

Release Date: October 28, 2004

Publisher: Picador

Format: Paperback

Page Number: 247

Source: City of Literature Class

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.

3 out of 5 stars


I read this book for my City of Literature class, and this has been the least awful one we’ve read so far. I didn’t hate this book, but I did find it very boring. Less horribly boring than the others, but still difficult to get through.

Gilead is told from the perspective of a dead man who is writing letters to his seven year old son for him to read when he becomes an adult. The whole plot is based around his findings about life through being a pastor and a follower of God.

My professor described this as more of a history of Iowa than anything, and I do not understand that at all. There wasn’t much history at all, and it mostly just told random stories from John Ames’ perspective. I found him to be quite an unreliable narrator throughout the whole book, and found it hard to trust what he was saying. This book was very religious and I wonder how the people who aren’t Christian felt about it. I bet it would be confusing if you knew nothing about the different denominations of Christianity.

I’m very impressed with how masculine the narrator sounds as the author is female. I think that it was an extremely strong perspective to take and write about, but it was done very well. I wish there would have been more information about Ames’ wife. The third book in this series follows his wife, Lila, but I have no intention of reading it. I get that if I really wanted to know more I could just read the rest of the series, but I just wish there was more in this book.

I never realized how heavily I relied on chapter breaks before there are none. NO CHAPTERS. Just random letters to his kid. Which makes sense with the idea, but the formatting was very bothersome to me. I think it just made it harder for me to get through. I’m extremely grateful to my library for having the audiobook to this, because it was nice to hear it read in a man’s voice. The narrator sounded VERY familiar to me, so I looked him up and found out that the only thing he’s been in that I’ve seen was Spiderman 2. So I don’t know if he just has a normal voice or if I’ve seen that movie more than I thought I had…

Overall I think this was a decent book. I don’t get the point of reading it for my class, but I’m sure I’ll find out when we discuss it tomorrow.

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