Robinson won the Pulitzer Prize for this fictional story of an aging and dying pastor who wants to leave for his young son a written legacy of his life. John Ames is a third generation pastor in the little town of Gilead, Iowa. He has spent virtually his whole life in Gilead, and most of it faithfully pastoring a little church. He married young and had a child, but both his wife and little girl died shortly after the child was born. Ames spent the rest of his life single until age 67 when a young woman attended a Pentecost service at which he was preaching. He immediately fell for her and marriage soon followed. A little boy brought joy to their home but at age 76 Ames is dying of heart disease and he is acutely aware that his son would never remember him, at least nothing of significance. So the pastor used his remaining energies to write his memoirs, not just events but of his thoughts, what his philosophy and theology was and what concerned him about the future for his wife and son. The result is a thoughtful, heartwarming story about life, what is important, and how we want to be remembered.
Gilead by Marilynne Robinson (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2004), 247pp, paper, $16.00
Reviewed by Gary E. Gilley, Pastor-teacher, Southern View Chapel