What is the Balm in Gilead?

GileadGilead by Marilynne Robinson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This highly acclaimed work of fiction depicts an old minister writing to his young son, to give an account of his life, he says. It deals honestly with all the tensions and disagreements and disputes we have with those closest to us. Envy, bitterness, love and reconciliation shine throughout.

Personally the style didn't grab me at all, and only my commitment to finish a book I start(unless something is really wrong) kept me going. The last 50 pages or so was worth the effort. The form of the book contributed to the message: life (and the book) is often a struggle and search for the first 80%, and then near the end comes the release of blessing and reconciliation.

It felt a little preachy and abstract at times, especially when lauding Karl Barth or some other mainline liberal pet topic. (There was an excellent page on the tension between forgiveness and the awfulness of sin.) But Robinson did a masterful job of conveying in a first person journal, a man struggling to forgive and love, knowing he should, yet not being able to do it. I can see it provoking people to reconsider offenses against others that they are carrying around, and don't know what to do with.

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