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Gilead Audible – Unabridged

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Editorial Reviews

Pulitzer Prize, Fiction, 2005

National Book Critics Circle Award, Fiction, 2005

In 1956, toward the end of Reverend John Ames's life, he begins a letter to his young son, an account of himself and his forebears. Ames is the son of an Iowan preacher and the grandson of a minister who, as a young man in Maine, saw a vision of Christ bound in chains and came west to Kansas to fight for abolition: He "preached men into the Civil War", then, at age 50, became a chaplain in the Union Army, losing his right eye in battle. Reverend Ames writes to his son about the tension between his father, an ardent pacifist, and his grandfather, whose pistol and bloody shirts, concealed in an army blanket, may be relics from the fight between the abolitionists and those settlers who wanted to vote Kansas into the union as a slave state. And he tells a story of the sacred bonds between fathers and sons, which are tested in his tender and strained relationship with his namesake, John Ames Boughton, his best friend's wayward son.

This is also the tale of another remarkable vision, not a corporeal vision of God but the vision of life as a wondrously strange creation. It tells how wisdom was forged in Ames's soul during his solitary life, and how history lives through generations, pervasively present even when betrayed and forgotten.

Gilead is the long-hoped-for second novel by one of our finest writers, a hymn of praise and lamentation to the God-haunted existence that Reverend Ames loves passionately, and from which he will soon part.

©2004 Marilynne Robinson; (P)2005 BBC Audiobooks America, Published by Audio Renaissance, a division of Holtzbrinck Publishers, LLC

Product Details

  • Audible Audio Edition
  • Listening Length: 8 hours and 59 minutes
  • Program Type: Audiobook
  • Version: Unabridged
  • Publisher: Macmillan Audio
  • Release Date: April 8, 2005
  • Whispersync for Voice: Ready
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0009AVQ9U
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank:

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1,180 of 1,213 people found the following review helpful By Eric Schenk VINE VOICE on November 15, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I considered Marilynne Robinson's first novel, "Housekeeping" to be one of the most beautifully written books I ever read and had hoped she would write another novel. However, when I learned that her new book was about the minister living in the middle of Iowa in the 1950's, I felt let down. I could not think of a setting in which I would have less interest. Nonetheless, I gave "Gilead" a try. I'm so glad I did. It is another example of what the English language is capable of. The prose is spare, as the subject demands. But it quickly becomes a meditation on how even the simplest life can be touched by grace and wonder. I am not a Christian. In fact, I am an atheist. But this book communicated to me the nurture that can be derived from heartfelt, clear minded, prosaic Christianity. Indeed I can't imagine a more spiritual text. I am not as young as I was when I read "Housekeeping" so I am not "swept away" by literature as I once was. But this lyrical book is on some subtle level, transforming. I understand why Ms. Robinson's quiet prose might not appeal to everyone. But this is truly a first rate work of fiction. I am a harsh critic, but I have no trouble giving this book five stars.
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370 of 384 people found the following review helpful By Mary Reinert on December 3, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Forgiveness, jealously, love, grace, faith, fear, and resentment are all themes so tightly woven into this beautifully written multi-generational story. Incidents in the story take place in rural Iowa and Kansas from the time of the Civil War through the 1950's. Although that time and culture is much different than most of us are now living, the characters of Rev. John Ames, his father, his grandfather, and his namesake John Ames Broughton are some of the most authentic that I have ever met in fiction.

Gilead is a spiritually fulfilling book and not because (or maybe in spite of the fact) most of the major characters are preachers. The fact that they are preachers only provides a clearer lens in which to see the issues of belief and doubt and how that belief or doubt affects our daily lives. Interesting note that one reviewer who states he is an atheist wrote the book "becomes a meditation on how even the simplest life can be touched by grace and wonder." Perhaps it is the simplest life that is most likely touched by grace and wonder as these characters demonstrate so beautifully in many ways such as Rev. Ames' final blessing of John Ames Broughton and the heartrending scene of the young neglected mother and her naked unnamed child playing in the stream.

I can't decide if this is a simple book or a complicated one, but it is one that could and should be read over and over. It is a significant book; however, do not think that it is "heavy." There is a quiet humor that often surfaces in the least expected places. I only hope that those with a cynical nature do not give up on it during the first part; it takes a while to work through some of the early narrative and what some might consider religious rambling but which provide the context for the confrontations that take place in the last third of the book.

In short, a beautiful book by an outstanding writer.
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290 of 314 people found the following review helpful By Tracy L. VINE VOICE on February 21, 2006
Format: Paperback
GILEAD is a book that has left me in a bit of a quandary. While I loved the book, I would be hesitant to recommend it to some since it does not conform to today's modern style of writing. This book is written without chapters, in a slowly paced style that requires readers to put themselves in the mindset of John Ames, a preacher in his mid-seventies who is nearing the end of his life. It is a journal of thoughts and memories that is being written to his son. There is no storyline, no plot to follow. It is purely an expression of love from a father to his son.

If you are looking for suspenseful plot twists, wacky best friends or humorous scenarios, this is not the book for you. If you simply want to read a stunning work of art, I highly recommend it.
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44 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Ed Uyeshima HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on November 27, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This is the work of a master storyteller that one could fairly compare with Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird" and Carson McCullers' "The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter". Author Marilynne Robinson has written a beautiful novel, concise and poignant with only a modicum of action but a depth of feeling all too rare in today's fiction. Set in mid-fifties Iowa, the dying, 76-year old Reverend John Ames narrates a long letter to his seven-year-old son born of his much younger second wife. It is not to be read until after the death of a father, who won't be around to see his boy grow up. The old man's purpose is to provide the boy with his "begats", a family history of biblical proportions that stretches from the Civil War to the civil rights movement. Through his discourse, Ames introduces his father and grandfather, who have split bitterly over the elder Ames' sometimes violent association with abolitionists, including John Brown. The reverend then details his boyhood quest to find the patriarch's Kansas grave. Before the Civil War, Gilead had become a haven for Brown and his supporters, as it was just across the border from bloody Kansas. The biblical parallels are clear, as Gilead is the land east of the Jordan traditionally viewed as the source of a healing salve, the balm of Gilead. But in the Old Testament, this same region also carries less than peaceful associations and is sometimes described as a place of bloodshed and inequity. With Brown, Ames' grandfather rode and once preached to his flock in a red-stained shirt with a pistol tucked in his belt. Ames tells this fascinating family history with alternate strokes of regret and pleasure.Read more ›
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