Gilead – Sneaks up on You

I haven’t read a lot this holiday. I re-read Cloudstreet yet again after watching the DVD series and thoroughly enjoyed seeing new angles I had previously missed. I finished ‘Falling Upwards’ by Rohr – another excellent book (see previous post) and today on the drive into Broome I finished Gilead – yes – Danelle was driving 🙂

It was the very first book I purchased when I got the kindle back in December, but I could never seem to get into it. I’d start it then lose interest, restart it and then give it up again… It is slow to ignite. But I decided to press on with it this holiday and see if it had more to offer.

It did.

But it is a book you need to stay with for at least the first half to appreciate the second. If you can get thru a fairly slow start then the rest of the book is engaging and compelling and beautiful both in its story and language.

Gilead is the name of a town in Iowa – a small town – insignificant even and that is part of the appeal of the story. It is story apart people who don’t ‘change the world’, but who live faithful and good lives, who raise their families, do their jobs and go the distance.

The narrative is essentially the writings of an elderly minister close to death recording his thoughts for his young son so he can know him after his impending death. The minister is in his 70s with a bad heart condition while his son is 7, the result of a second marriage to a much younger woman late in life. (His first wife and child died in childbirth.)

Much of the story revolves around the relationship between John Ames (the minister) and his elderly friend Boughton – also a minister and also near to death. These two have been lifelong friends in this one small town and their friendship is one that has stood the test of time. That relational dynamic alone is worth the price of the book.

The story gains steam when Boughton’s ‘prodigal son’ comes back to town. As a kid he was more than a larrikin – he was mean – and seemed to enjoy upsetting Ames. And now the old minister is convinced he has returned to town just in time to see him die and sweep his grieving widow off her feet.

The second half of the story revolves around the relationship between Ames and Jack, the attempts by both to make connection albeit for different reasons and the conclusion is both surprising and powerful.

I won’t tell more of the story as this is where it gets interesting

But it’s a great story for men especially. It tells of healthy long term male friendship, of a father’s depth of love for a son, of redemption in curious places and of finding peace in the final stages of life.

It is a reminder that your life doesn’t have to be ‘big and noticed’ for it to be significant.

I have started reading it again as I already realise there is much that I missed first time round. So if you pick it up I’m sure you will enjoy it if you give it the time to catch fire.

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