Sunday, March 9, 2008

Gilead - Marilynne Robinson

So two weeks ago, after I missed church - an extremely rare occurrence for me - a few of the people in church stopped by for a visit. My friends Anne and Terry dropped by some chocolate covered coffee beans - yum! - and two books. I couldn't get to the books right away because I was in the middle of Harry Potter 5, which I had borrowed from their daughter. But after I downed Harry Potter - aided by my extended bed stay thanks to some bad AlBap (fish egg rice), I happily picked up Gilead by Marilynne Robinson, which won a Pulitzer Prize in 2005.
I guess I'm into reading and watching the best of the best lately. Sure I read and watch some just for entertainment, but Sarah and I are both more and more interested in reading and watching the classics. I have also been wanting to read prize winning novels lately. I just figure that if I'm going to spend the time reading, I might as well choose works that have passed the highest tests of critical acclaim. (I also read a book recently called 2007's Best American Essays. It was great! I highly recommend it.)
So, back to Gilead, the entire book is in rambling, letter/journal form. The basic premise is that an old pastor lived most of his life as a single man. Then at the age of 67, he married and shortly after had a child. At the age of 77ish, he learns that he is dying - and could die any day - from heart disease, so he decides to write his son a very, very long (280 pages) letter to explain what he was like as a young man and to tell him the family history.
Gilead is the name of the small town in Iowa where he has lived most of his life. The book consists of mostly random stories, recollections, and reflections. The beauty of it is his intense appreciation for life. The beauty of the book is actually the beauty the narrator sees in life all around him.
Over all, I enjoyed the book. However, I found the randomness of it all to be disconcerting. I struggled at times to catch the plot or the theme of the book. Many times it just feels like one story added on to another story in no particular sequence or pattern, but I guess that fits the basic premise of the book: the end of life reflections of an old man as he lives day by day and records his thoughts.
His perspective on life is thoroughly satisfying, but for me the book lost a j just because I found the randomness of the reflections to be frustrating. Over all, I give it a jjjj rating. Thanks, Anne, for a good read.
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