Gilead is a heartwarming tale of religious fiction written by Marilynn Robinson. It is the story of John Ames, a pious pastor from the American Midwest, who is coming to the end of his life. John desires to leave a memoir of practical and spiritual guidance for his young son before his earthly time comes to an end. The book is written with a wonderful eloquence that keeps you turning the pages. The book won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for fiction. I read the book because I was curious as to how an openly Christian novel would gain the attention of secular awards and audience. On that question, all I can conclude is that this book explores what is best about the Christian message and that brings an appeal to even a secular audience despite the overt theological message of the book.
As John Ames reminisces about his life in these letters to his son you learn much about him. You hear of his difficult and lonely life and the family heritage that brought him into pastoral ministry. Ames describes the relationship he had with his father and the relationship his father had with his father. Like other books I have read lately, this book explores the relationship between father and sons and the difficulty is poses across generations. You learn many things about Ames that pulls you toward him as a sympathetic character. He tells of the loss of a wife and daughter and the years of pain he lived with because of that. He is open and honest about his struggles with loneliness and jealousy as a result.
The conflict in this story develops as Ames writes of his relationship with his namesake godson, John Ames (Jack) Boughton. Jack is seemingly the opposite of John in every way. As the tension mounts between the two a breakthrough happens as Jack share of his own separation from his wife and child. The ending of the story is a wonderful illustration of reconciliation. Ames comes to forgive and love his godson in a way that he has desired his entire life but never been able to do.
I highly recommend this book. It is inspirational and beautifully written.