I just finished reading Marilynne Robinson's "Gilead". I cried at its end, not for its end, nor because it was sad. It was beautiful. I sat there on the toilet reading until my legs were asleep to finish, a ridiculous place to experience beauty that would make one weep.

The book is no master piece of poetry, no epic, not the brash offspring of sharp wit or forceful essay of vast intellect. I would not call the story or its players particularly memorable. No surprising twists. No strange quirks. No gimmicks. No cliffhangers or breathtakers. The landscape is plain, with residents to match. The story moves slow, even sluggishly along. If anything in it is foreign or new to me, it is the age of John Ames. But that, too, is not unusual, only outside my experience to date.

There is no escapism or novelty to grab interest in this novel. I can think of little to recommend it to you, except perhaps to say that it moves me. Its town is blessed in the end by the old man, "To me it seems rather Christlike to be as unadorned as this place is, as little regarded." As the town is to him, the like-named book is to me, a clear yet gentle echo of real beauty, humble enough to be thoroughly human. The very bones of it are composed of grace, the muscle faith, the skin a little regarded, dying man.

If you read it, do not be afraid to take a long time and let it sink in slowly. As one reviewer on the back of this library copy says, it is "a book to be savored." It is rich food, best not gulped down in a hurry.


Dennis Family said...

The fact that you completed this book of humble beauty while performing such a mundane chore inspires.

I have not read a more insightful book review.


Timothy Kurek said...

You are a better man than I... This book was above me.


Glad you said what you said on the Prop 8 blog on Burnside... What garbage that post was.


Unknown said...

Garbage? :( I didn't agree much either, but that's just not very nice or helpful to say online.

Ben Sternke said...

I, too, wept through that book. I am starting her newest, called Home, that is a sequel of sorts, dealing with another family from the Gilead book.