rumination on Gilead — 1 year ago
Having just finished Gilead I want to ruminate on it a bit. It was a well written, enjoyable, slow read but I feel as though I’m missing something and I want to think on it.
The book is itself one long rumination written by a 77 year old preacher (John Ames) ostensibly to his 7 year old son about himself and his relationships: to God, to his grandfather, his father, his friend, his friend’s son who is his namesake, his dead daughter, his wife, his son, and himself. All the old guys are preachers. His grandfather was a firebrand; his father a pacifist. He seems just a well considered man; a man doing his best to walk out the morality of which his intellect informs him. His friend, Broughten, seems a cypher, an alternative universe version of John Ames, the same preacher but with a family, without the loss and loneliness. Young Broughten, young John Ames Broughten, who is not young but early middle aged, seems also an alternative universe version of John Ames — who he is without the foundation of his believing, who the old John Ames is with the love he didn’t have but always felt anyway. The young John Ames is where the old John Ames can see his worse self reflected, and where he misses seeing his better self reflected.
Then there are the two wives of the two John Ames — both of them scandalous, the old one oblivious to the scandal that was surely there; the young one all too aware and thwarted by the scandal. There are the two young sons who will both in very real ways grow up with and without their fathers.
I suppose I’m always drawn whenever I see a character attempting honesty with himself. His reflections on love are particularly profound, and hopeful. His reflections on why it is so often the prodigal who is most loved almost make that phenomenon understandable. I do think he sees the grace in life, and that it isn’t his religion that reveals it but his willingness to experience it. I hope he got to see his son grow many more years, and bury his friend in peace. And I hope he learns more of his wife’s real story which I think he knows as little of as he knew of the young John Ames before their final talk.