I got Gilead by Marilynne Robinson as a gift, and since it won the Pulitzer Prize – I thought that it was worth reading. Mistake #1.
Then once I was at about page 50 and hating it, I assumed it had to get better. Mistake #2. So I did finish it and wasted about 4 hours of my life. Mistake #3. Unless you are an uber-intellectual, religious scholar – this book will bore you to tears.
The book takes place in Gilead, Iowa which is a teeny, tiny town on the border of Kansas where absolutely nothing takes place day in and day out. The protagonist is a minister who has lived his entire life in this town and now during his dying days wants to write a letter to his 7 yr old son imparting all of his worldly fatherly knowlege. The book is the letter and it ends up being more of a retelling of his life from 1880 to the mid 1950′s. The problem is that there is nothing interesting which happens in John Ames’ life. His grandfather was a famous abolitionist, and I would have been interested in learning more about “free towns” that were established in Iowa and Kansas but to no avail. I only had to read about how eccentric the grandfather was, and how he was not an “appropriate” minister.
The only other semi-interesting character is the son of his best friend, who is the sinner of all sinners and begets an illegitimate child – quelle horreur! I can not stress enough how slow and boring this story is. There is a lot of plot build-up as to what sin this Boughton fella could have committed and then when you find how that he has a child out-of-wedlock, it was just a ho-hum event. I suppose if this book had been published a century ago, it might have been interesting but it is so dated.
I also suppose if you are interested in scripture, the book may have been tolerable as there are references to scriptures on every other page as well as references to all sorts of religious scholars and writers.
The sole redeeming quality was Robinson’s writing style. It is touted as “serenely beautiful…..rapturous….astonishing” and the writing truly was beautiful but it was just hard for me to appreciate because it only lulled me to sleep.
Do we have a dog category?