Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
I know a lot of people really love this book, but man was it SLOW!
The first, oh, half of the book was simply the life story of the elderly, near-death preacher John Ames of Gilead, IA as told in letters to his very young son. His family history was somewhat interesting: grandfather was an ardent Kansas abolitionist who aided and abetted John Brown, his father a pacifist after seeing the reality of war, all of them pastors.
Don’t get me wrong, the book wasn’t badly written. It was very believeable. Nor was the storyline of the first half useless. On the contrary, I would love to listen to my grandfather, or a great-uncle or someone tell me a story like this about his life. My problem was that I had not yet been convinced that I should care about John Ames’ life and what had happened in it, about his obscure family memories.
The second half of the book, once we got into the storyline that was taking place in the ‘present’ (John Ames’ present, which was in the 1950s) revolving around Jack Boughton, was great. I found Jack’s character very compelling and loved watching the evolution of John’s feelings about him. Honestly, though, if I hadn’t had this as an audiobook, I don’t know that I ever would have even made it to Jack’s part of the story, I probably would have set the book down in the first half (with good intentions of continuing later, of course), and simply failed to ever pick it up again.
This book is pretty slow at the beginning, but I think the second half of the book is worth getting to. I suppose if you could pretend this actually IS a relative of yours telling his story the beginning might seem more interesting as well. If you think you’ll have a hard time getting through this, make yourself a captive audience like I did (working on a big, boring mailing, it was the only book on my Ipod).