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Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

Gilead 

A story of a dynasty of minsters might fit too obviously into my reading schedule but quite the reverse.  For me to read about ministers on my holidays, the writing would need to be something special!  Well Marilynne Robinson is something special.  When Bryan Appleyard calls her “one of the greatest living novelists” he is not exaggerating for a back cover endorsement and Pulitzer and Orange prizes (for Gilead and the recent follow up Home respectively) back up his assessment.  She writes with poetic prose that capture stunning images and with deep insight into the intricacies of the human psyche.  More than that she goes to deep soul and asks her questions of love, forgiveness, loyalty, sin and redemption from a specifically Christian context, touching heavily on the Calvinistic; portraying all of that in its better hues!

The book is written in the form of a very, very long letter from an aging minister to a very young son of a second late marriage, to a much younger woman, but ends up as the journaling of a tough relationship between the narrator Rev James Ames and Jack Boughton his best mate another minister’s son.  In the midst of his wider life story and this more specific scenario you get a liberal sprinkling of spiritual nuggets that suggest Ms Robinson has some considerable theological prowess.

At one point she writes, through old Rev. Ames, “This is an interesting planet. It deserves all the attention you can give it.”  It is the attention that Robinson gives it that brings a new vitality, indeed transcendence to things that become too familiar, losing their sacredness.  For me those things were baptism which is described as “sacredness under my hand” and benediction “it was an honour to bless him.”  I am sure you will find your own. In the end the words, “Wherever you turn your eyes the world can shine like transfiguration.  You don’t have to bring a thing to it except a willingness to see,” sum it up.  Gilead refocused my eyes and strengthened the ardour of my willingness. It was a joy to read and its benefits go on.

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