Monday, December 30, 2013

Books Like Whoa: Gilead by Marilynne Robinson (Favorites)

To finish off my year in books, I want to talk about the best book I read in the last 12 months, the book that filled me with renewed faith in the written word, the book that reminded me of the warmth of human kindness...

by Marilynne Robinson

Procured from my all time favorite used book store, McKay's

Procured in July 2012

Finished in April 8, 2013

Format: Trade paperback with the iconic white-washed door cover

Why I gave it a try:  I'd been meaning to get to Marilynne for ages and then it was assigned for class - two birds, one stone.

Summary: In mid-century Iowa, John Ames is 76 and dying. In addition to the normal process of preparing oneself to depart this world, he is trying to prepare his wife and seven year old son for his imminent death. Realizing that his son will never really know his father, John starts keeping a diary reflecting on his own life, as well as the lives of his father and grandfather. As the third in three generations of preachers in the nascent American West, Ames' stories of the American Civil War weave in and out of his present day reality, where the prodigal son of his best friend has returned to Gilead and is complicating all of their lives.

Thoughts: Considering that Marilynne got the Pulitzer for this, it's not a huge surprise that this is a great book. A beautiful book. A book that makes me despair of ever being able to write sentences half as perfect as the ones that she seems to effortlessly toss out. A book that renders me mute in the face of my own incompetence and reminds me that I will never write a book this good.

Whatever. I need to get over my feelings of smallness that Marilynne's prose kindles within me, because this is a perfectly written novel. 

I should say, I do know people who don't like this book at all. I get it. It is purely driven by the writing and the characters, so if you don't like the voice, you're not going to like the book at all. I mean, you'll be wrong, but that's okay. 

But all kidding aside, this book is wonderful because it does manage to be so compelling with so little going on. I wouldn't call it stream of consciousness, per se, but because it is written as a diary, there is a wonderful fluidity of time that allows memories from the narrator's childhood to exist with the real time action in a way that illuminates both the memory and the present. Marilynne excels at the old writing moniker, "show don't tell," especially when it comes to the fractious relationships between the men of the Ames family.  

Even more than the technical skill of Marilynne that shines through every word of Gilead, what has stuck with me is her ability to articulate the thoughts and feelings that drift shapelessly at the fringes of your consciousness. She shapes these nebulous ideas that you weren't fully aware were there into these delicate scenes and by the end of them, you find yourself crying and filled with the joy of clarity that Marilynne has brought into your emotional life. 

This is a book that I know I will return to throughout the years - it's the kind of book that can age with you. And it has made me dip into the rest of her oeuvre, though it is sadly not that big. I started gulping it down, realized the supply was limited, and am now sipping her essays very slowly. 

Get this! Read this! Love this! Please - you're only hurting yourself if you don't. 


7 - I will have to seriously reevaluate any friendship or romantic interest that does not like this book: a favorite 

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