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Rev. John Ames is 77 years old in 1956, in failing health, with a much younger wife and six-year-old son; as a preacher in the small Iowa town where he spent his entire life, he has produced volumes and volumes of sermons and prayers, "[t]rying to say what was true." But it is in this mesmerizing account?in the form of a letter to his young son, who he imagines reading it when he is grown?that his meditations on creation and existence are fully illumined. Ames details the often harsh conditions of perishing Midwestern prairie towns, the Spanish influenza and two world wars. He relates the death of his first wife and child, and his long years alone attempting to live up to the legacy of his fiery grandfather, a man who saw visions of Christ and became a controversial figure in the Kansas abolitionist movement, and his own father's embittered pacifism. During the course of Ames's writing, he is confronted with one of his most difficult and long-simmering crises of personal resentment when John Ames Boughton (his namesake and son of his best friend) returns to his hometown, trailing with him the actions of a callous past and precarious future. In attempting to find a way to comprehend and forgive, Ames finds that he must face a final comprehension of self?as well as the worth of his life's reflections.

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User Review  - Charon07 - LibraryThing

A gentle, philosophical novel in the form of a letter from a dying father to his young son. The father is a minister in Gilead, Iowa, the grandson of a fiery abolitionist minister and the son of a strongly pacifist one. Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - Beth.Clarke - LibraryThing

I wanted to love this and find it flawless. After all, it won the Pulitzer and it's on Oprah's book list, but I found it slow. I certainly enjoyed the prose and the characters. However, the plot just moved at a snail's pace. It was good, just not great. Read full review

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About the author (2005)

Marilynne Robinson was born in 1947. Her first novel, Housekeeping (1981) received the PEN/Hemingway award for best first novel as well as being nominated for the Pulitzer Prize

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