The Magazine

This Almost Chosen People

Marilynne Robinson's novel of America's Protestant soul.

Jan 31, 2005, Vol. 10, No. 19 • By GREGORY FEELEY
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His voice is the novel's texture: well-meaning, not entirely honest with himself, deeply troubled. The Reverend Ames begins a letter to his son, uncertain why he is doing so, and 245 pages later concludes it. This letter--bereft of chapter divisions, titled sections, or any other traditional literary appurtenance--is what we have: the entirety of a novel that discloses and withholds, dramatizing the swerves and evasions of an unquiet soul uneasy with his life even as it nears its end.

In the sere beauty of its prose and the fierceness of its passion, Gilead is a work of startling power: a seemingly simple artifice that reveals more complex and finer structures the closer we approach it. It is a subtle, gorgeously wrought, and immensely moving novel.

Gregory Feeley is a widely published author of stories and essays. His latest novel, Arabian Wine, will be published in March.