2017 Reading Challenge: Reading for Growth
A Pulitzer Prize or National Book Award Winner
For this category, I chose Gilead by Marilynne Robinson, winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 2005.
Gilead, set in Gilead, Iowa, begins as a letter by John Ames, an elderly pastor, to his young son to provide his son with the legacy of a father that he will not have the opportunity to know well. The story continues as this letter throughout with only breaks between subjects or writing sessions. More than just a letter of wisdom handed down to this son, Gilead becomes a journey of a life well examined as Ames is confronted with reconciling his relationship with the adult son of his best friend in the present day as he recounts his memories of the past.
This epistolary novel (a novel written as a series of documents) forces the reader to slow down and let the words of the good pastor work their way into your heart. Without flash and fast-paced drama, it surprised me by becoming a book I couldn’t put down.
Ames does not shy away from revealing his struggles and flaws, giving the reader a fully developed (maybe even more than fully developed) character. Gilead felt more like the memoir of an actual person than fiction and that explains my liking it so much.