Tuesday, June 03, 2008

#38 - Gilead

Over the course of the 10 days I was away, I stopped and started a number of books. But Marilynne Robinson's Gilead was the only one out of the five or so paperbacks I brought with me to capture my exhausted attention and hold it tight in its hands.

The narrator, a Reverend John Ames, nears the end of his life and wants to leave a record behind for his only son, a seven-year-old boy. Told in epistolary format, the Reverend mixes scripture, sermons, stories and observations into the narrative of his life, loves words and their meanings, and takes the spirit of his life very seriously. He means to leave a legacy behind for his son; it's the only way, he'll not survive into his adulthood. Interwoven into his own history is that of his grandfather, his father (both reverends as well) and his neighbour, an aging Presbyterian minister, Boughton.

Novels that are technically brilliant, novels like this one, make one appreciate the sheer talent that a voice can bring to a book. Ames's remains loud, clear and unclouded throughout the entire novel. Robinson uses the form to her advantage, and you can hear the tenor reverberating throughout each sentence of the love letter to his son. There were so many passages that I wanted to soak up like clouds do mist and the book is so heartfelt that one can't help but feel that Marilynne Robinson's Pulitzer was utterly and rightly deserved.

Here's a passage that I put up earlier this week on Savvy Reader:
Our dream of life will end as dreams do end, abruptly and completely, when the sun rises, when the light comes. And we will think, All that fear and all that grief were about nothing. But that cannot be true. I can't believe we will forget our sorrows altogether. Sorrow seems to me to be a great part of the substance of human life.
Just, astonishing and awesome, as in its original meaning. Truly.

PHOTO IN CONTEXT: I read the bulk of this book in the Jardin des Tulieries in Paris after visiting the Musee D'Orsay after Sam went home on Friday. Also included is me in thoughtful repose, flaws, freckles, dirty hair and all.

1 comment:

JM said...

I just have to mention that Marilynne Robinson is the author of Housekeeping, the subject of a lengthy focus in the New York Times recently, and which was made into a wonderful, wonderful movie starring Christine Lahti. Gilead is her second novel. After the terrific Housekeeping it is not surprising (to me anyway) that it took many years to write another novel.