August 20, 2021
Genre/Categories/Setting: Literary Fiction, Pulitzer Prize, Fathers and Sons, Family Life, Rural America and Small Towns
Gilead has been on my virtual bookshelf for years! When I heard about this challenge, I thought this Pulitzer Prize book might be perfect to read! My husband and I both read and enjoyed Gilead, and it has earned a place on both of our lifetime favorites lists. We definitely want to continue with the next three books.
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Pulitzer Prize 2005. New York Times Top-Ten Book of 2004. Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction. Marilynne Robinson writes the quiet story of three generations of fathers and sons. faith, and rural life.
Literary Fiction: Maybe you’ve heard the term “literary fiction” and you’re not sure about the definition. In my understanding, Literary Fiction is not genre fiction. It’s character-driven and written with the intent of understanding the world and exploring the meaning of life. I consider Gilead an excellent example of Literary Fiction. Even though Gilead takes place in the past, I think it’s a story that could have taken place in any setting because the focus is on a father’s legacy to his son and themes like love, legacy, and faith are universal.
“When things are taking their ordinary course, it is hard to remember what matters. There are so many things you would never think to tell anyone. And I believe they may be the things that mean most to you, and that even your own child would have to know in order to know you well at all.”
Parents: What legacy will you leave your child? Would you ever consider writing a letter to your child explaining your life and your hopes and dreams for her or him? Gilead is structured as a series of letters from a dying father to his young son. In this case, the father is older (in his 70s) and the son is seven years old. The narrator speaks to the young son as he reflects on his work, his values, his beliefs (he is a minister), his faith, his strengths and weaknesses, his friendships, and stories of his father and grandfather. What would you say or leave to the ones you love?
“I’m writing this in part to tell you that if you ever wonder what you’ve done in your life, and everyone does wonder sooner or later, you have been God’s grace to me, a miracle, something more than a miracle. You may not remember me very well at all, and it may seem to you to be no great thing to have been the good child of an old man in a shabby little town you will no doubt leave behind. If only I had the words to tell you.”
Traditional Values: Gilead also touches on traditional values, small towns, and rural America. In this sense it could be considered historical fiction because of the 1950s setting.
Themes: Thoughtful themes include father/son relationships, the living out of a person’s faith, friendship, meaning of life, legacy, community, love, a life well lived, life questions, and forgiveness.
“Love is holy because it is like grace…the worthiness of its object is never really what matters.”
Highly Recommended: Both my husband and I read Gilead and enjoyed it tremendously and enthusiastically recommend this quiet, character-driven story for fans of Literary Fiction, for readers who appreciate faith (not religious) themes, and for readers who love family relationships (especially parent/child). It caused us both to ponder our legacy and to consider writing letters! Even though this is a stand alone, it is the first in a series of four.
Content Consideration: End of life reflections
My Rating: 5 Stars
Meet the Author, Marilynne Robinson
Marilynne Robinson is the author of the bestselling novels “Lila,” “Home” (winner of the Orange Prize), “Gilead” (winner of the Pulitzer Prize), and “Housekeeping” (winner of the PEN/Hemingway Award).
She has also written four books of nonfiction, “When I Was a Child I Read Books,” “Absence of Mind,” “Mother Country” and “The Death of Adam.” She teaches at the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop.
She has been given honorary degrees from Brown University, the University of the South, Holy Cross, Notre Dame, Amherst, Skidmore, and Oxford University. She was also elected a fellow of Mansfield College, Oxford University.
Is Gilead on your TBR or have you read it?
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