I am pleased to report, we have another winner! Gilead by Marilynne Robinson was warmly praised by all who read it. I personally found it to be one of the most moving books I have ever read. Misfit Loome places it in the top five novels he has read. We all want to thank Misfit Gatschet for recommending the book.
Why the high praise? Simply because Robinson's prose is completely captivating--the woman can tell a story! And the story is told in a letter the Reverend John Ames, a 77 year old Congressionalist preacher, is writing to his 6 year-old son. It is his attempt to give an account of himself to his son as he tells him of his forebears, all men of the cloth. It is also a story of the sacred bonds formed by fathers and sons and the manner in which they are tested by the challenges imposed by these bonds.
As you begin to read the letter Reverend Ames is composing for his son, you learn that he is physically ailing even though he is still mentally sharp. His letter reveals him as a deeply pious man who considers the Bible an incontrovertible source of moral authority. He describes life as “the great bright dream of procreating and perishing.” and speaks of the “courage and loneliness” of every human face.
I am tempted to draw a comparison between Flannery O'Conner and Marilynne Robinson in what I think are two areas of distinct similarity. First, both novelists depict a God-haunted existence in the lives of their main characters. God is a presence in their lives and redemptive grace always a possibility. Secondly, Robinson like O'Conner, tells her story largely through a male protagonist. This is especially the case with Gilead where women and the feminine are sparingly portrayed. In fact, women seldom speak or intersect with the largely masculine story line as related through the voice of Reverend Ames.
Some might ask, "Yes, but is this a Catholic novel? I thought the Misfits was a Catholic Men's Reading Group." I would argue that if you are a Catholic with a strong fundamentalist bent (me!), you will read this novel as a deeply Christian expression of faith. Hence, it is a Catholic novel!
Yours in Christ,