My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Here’s a novel where the central voice is a Congragationalist minister, whose whole life has been in the small Iowan town of Gilead.
The setting is definitely small – backwater, even – but the matters are both profound and moving. We feel the weight of generations and of generation; civil society and civil war; friendship, love and meanness; facing senescence; modernism and learning versus true wisdom. The smallness of the setting, I think, underscores that the deepest things in life are found in the everyday. Revolution and turmoil will disappoint, both individually and socially. What lasts is the mundane (ie. of the world) pattern of sleep, eat, love, prayer, family, community, memory, friendship and sitting on the front porch.
Before I forget: the writing is beautiful!
One thing I greatly appreciated was how real is the voice of John Ames, whose diary/letter-to-the-future we read. It’s believable. He’s a third-generation preacher whose mind is steeped in the Bible – and that fits. He has seen all sort of views of God in family, friends and twentieth century theology – and he engages with these ideas. That also fits.