April 13, 2006

"Gilead" By Marilynne Robinson

Just finished reading "Gilead" the Pulitzer Prize winner by Marilynne Robinson.

First of all, I have to admit that I almost put the book down after reading the first twenty pages or so. It's not the kind of book that I would choose to read. I started on this one since I had nothing better to read on my spring break. Religious reads are not among my favorites, and this does happen to be about a preacher in Iowa during the late 50s. I somehow managed to trudge along, reading some twenty odd pages every time I picked up the book. However, after I was about half way through the novel, it suddenly dawned on me that I was now reading the book out of interest, and also that it had stopped mattering to me that the main protagonist was a preacher. The novel had gone beyond an ailing preacher writing a letter to his seven year old son about how he'd grown up in a religious environment. It now brought in various elements of human drama, that between a gun-toting abolitionist father and an ambivalent son; another centered on spousal jealousy in the face of death, yet another between a pacifist father and a questioning son. Conflicts quite universal that are indicative of ideological polarities that exist within American society, and which could draw in any reader regardless of his age, nationality, and his religious affiliation.

A reading that started of as a chore ended up being a 'different' read by the end of it. One particular statement in the novel was rather thought provoking:
''Do you ever wonder why American Christianity seems to wait for the real thinking to be done elsewhere?''


Wendy C. said...

As long as their bellies are full and they have a big SUV to drive to Target when Frito's are on sale, who needs to think? I think that when people have no real needs, religion becomes little more than a vain passtime...of course, I am speaking of stereotyped generalities...
(sarcasm noted :-)

karmic_jay said...

I loved that line from the book. But the kind of American Chritianity we sometimes see (am trying not to paint with too broad a stroke) is really more of a pop variety, set up for a culture where everything needs to happen now.
So we do just enought to make oneself feel good about being religious and completely miss the essence of things.
Wendy's points are valid as well.

Guyana-Gyal said...

This: "Conflicts quite universal...and which could draw in any reader regardless of his age, nationality, and his religious affiliation" makes it sound an interesting read. I must ask for it at our bookstore.

A book as letter reminds me of Oscar Wilde's Dei Profundis.