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Book Reviews


Book Review

by Lauren Alise Schultz

The novel Gilead by Marilynne Robinson is a luminous and beautiful novel, for so many reasons. I am afraid that I am not going to be able to adequately express what about this novel resonates so deeply with me, but I am briefly going to try.

This novel is beautiful in how it manages to capture the depth of a father’s love for his son in simple language that does not render love as a simple thing at all.

This novel is admirable and beautiful in how it explores the complexity of relationships between multiple generations, again using a simplicity of language that portrays tensions as a palpable thing the reader can feel in her heart. You feel the characters walking on the edge of a knife as they are in conflict with each other but are desperately trying to remain respectful.

This novel is beautiful and heartbreaking in how it explores the many ways we can hurt the ones that we love, and be hurt by them, and yet still go on loving.

This novel is beautiful in its portrayal of how the Christian faith, which so many of us have experienced as a judgmental and even abusive force, can be a source of compassionate insight and a catalyst for emotional growth. Yet it does not shy away from portraying the complexities of religious faith and the various ways it can impact individual psyches.

This novel is artful in how it explores the way that race was an issue in different ways in different places, teaching history without ever seeming didactic or preachy. I deeply appreciate how much I learned about the historical political opinions and actions of the people of Iowa, as well as the treatment of African Americans in that state, from details in the book. These things were even more helpful and meaningful to me when I first read this novel, having just moved to Iowa less than a year before.

In short, this novel struck a chord with me because it explored so many themes that are personally relevant to me, including Christianity, doubt and faith more broadly, race relations, family tensions, compassion and forgiveness, and Midwestern values and norms. I hope very much that the insight and compassion that I have gained from Gilead continues to grow in my heart for years to come.

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Marilynne Robinson
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