Gilead by Marilynne Robinson just became one of my favorite books of all time.
Reading it was like eating a super-rich dessert: One part of me wanted to consume it slowly, to just hold it on my tongue and savor every bite. But the other part of me relished it so much I couldn’t stop!* Now it will take me a while to digest.
I knew very little about Gilead before I picked it up. I remember reading reviews of it when it came out in 2004. I knew it won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, as well as the National Book Critics Circle Award. I had a vague idea it touched on religious themes. Several friends recommended it.
But it was nothing that I expected.
I loved it as a Christ-follower. I loved it as someone who serves in full-time ministry. I loved it as a child, sibling, spouse, and parent. I loved it as a friend. I loved it as a human.
At first I kept thinking, Oh, I wish I had read this when it first came out! How have I gone this long without reading it? But then I realized I wouldn’t have appreciated nearly as much in 2004 as I did now, in 2011. It also made me wonder how much more I might appreciate it in another 7 years. Or 14. Or 21.
I realize I haven’t said much about the actual book. I find myself at a loss. I think I’ll simply leave you with some of my favorite quotes (it was nearly impossible to narrow down to these)…
“I’m writing this in part to tell you that if you ever wonder what you’ve done in your life, and everyone does wonder sooner or later, you have been God’s grace to me, a miracle, something more than a miracle. You may not remember me very well at all, and it may seem to you to be no great thing to have been the good child of an old man in a shabby little town you will no doubt leave behind. If only I had the words to tell you.”
“Well, but you two are dancing around in your iridescent little downpour, whooping and stomping as sane people ought to do when they encounter a thing so miraculous as water.”
“Grace has a grand laughter in it.”
“Love is holy because it is like grace–the worthiness of its object is never really what matters.”
“People talk about how wonderful the world seems to children, and that’s true enough. But children think they will grow into it and understand it, and I know very well that I will not, and would not if I had a dozen lives.”
“I don’t know exactly what covetise is, but in my experience it is not so much desiring someone else’s virtue or happiness as rejecting it, taking offense at the beauty of it.”
“The Lord is more constant and far more extravagant than it seems to imply. Wherever you turn your eyes the world can shine like transfiguration. You don’t have to bring a thing to it except a little willingness to see. Only, who could have the courage to see it?”
“’He will wipe the tears from all faces.’ It takes nothing from the loveliness of the verse to say that is exactly what will be required.”
“There are a thousand thousand reasons to live this life, every one of them sufficient.”
Who else loves Gilead?
*I finally decided I would purchase a copy of my own and read it again, next time at a more leisurely pace.