Gilead [Book Review] #WhatsOnYourBookShelfChallenge

August 20, 2021

 Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson (cover) Image: white text over the graphic image of a bluish tree)

Genre/Categories/Setting: Literary Fiction, Pulitzer Prize, Fathers and Sons, Family Life, Rural America and Small Towns

I’m linking up today with Deb @ Deb’s World and SueDonna, and Jo for the August installment of #WhatsOnYourBookShelfChallenge

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.

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

My Summary:

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.

My Thoughts:

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


Gilead by Marilynne Robinson (cover) Image:

Gilead Information Here

Meet the Author, Marilynne Robinson

Author Marilynne RobinsonMarilynne 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?

Happy Reading Book Buddies!

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Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

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  1. Thanks for this fabulous review of Gilead Carol. I’ve not heard of it before but your thoughtful review says a lot and it’s certainly sounds like a book worth reading. It’s so good to have you join us for our first #Whatsonyourbookshelfchallenge and you post encourages others to join in with us. We are keen to see what others are reading and why and your post explains it perfectly!

  2. Gilead is one of the few books I have read several times, and it’s a book I pushed on my book club. To my surprise, they loved it, too.

    I agree completely with your thoughts about the book. Every time I read it, I take away something else.

    • That’s why he was so intent to leave his son something of himself. It was poignant for us because we have a 7 yo grandson living with us.

  3. I loved this book too, Carol. I just picked up the second book, Home, from the library and will be starting it this weekend. I have not been much of a re-reader, but this is one I think I will re-read.

  4. Thanks for linking this review up with Deb. It sounds very much like something that would absolutely have you thinking about your legacy (and not just the physical legacy) and what you’d write to your child. I haven’t read the book and that’s exactly what I’m thinking as I type this comment #whatsonyourbookshelfchallenge

  5. What an excellent, thoughtful review, Carol. I have not read Gilead, in fact, it was not even on my radar. It certainly sounds like an excellent book for me to snuggle down with in the fall by the fireplace. I love your definition of Literary Fiction. I am definitely adding this to my shelf.

    • Thanks Carla! It’s a quiet and reflective read perfect for fall! Brilliantly written…spiritual….inspiring…..and poignant.

  6. […] The Rose Code by Kate Quinn Anxious People by Fredrik Backman The Girl With the Louding Voice by Abi Dare The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson The River by Peter Heller We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Schaffer The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin Gilead by Marilynne Robinson […]

  7. […] Literary Fiction: 4This is a category that brings about some debate among readers….the most simple definition is that literary fiction is not genre fiction. Also, it’s character driven (usually) and known as literature written to explore the meaning of life and its issues….for example, most prestigious award recipients and national prize winners are categorized as literary fiction. My favorite title this year in the category is Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. […]

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