Review by Willard Manus
It would be interesting to learn what Sister Wendy thinks about GILEAD, Marilynne Robinson's first novel in twenty-five years (Housekeeping was published in 1981). GILEAD, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2005 (and has now been issued as a Picador paperback), deals with faith and the spiritual life in telling the story of 76-year-old John Ames, a midwest Congregational minister facing death from a heart condition.
Ames' thoughts on God, mortality, love and goodness fill the short, lean book, most of which centers on a letter he writes to his seven-year-old son.
Ames' metaphysical musings and his struggle to come to grips with the mysteries of existence--and the social inequities, such as racism, that lie at the heart of American life--are laid bare in Robinson's quiet but intense narrative. Her seriousness of purpose is undeniable and her prose is luminous and precise, but
the undramatic nature of the book (which reads more like an essay than fiction) and its unrelieved religiosity begin to pall. In the end the author was preaching to the unconverted.