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Gilead

I'm about one-third of the way through a very moving book, Marilynne Robinson's Gilead. Robinson strikes me as a Protestant Flannery O'Connor of the Mid-West. The book is that good. And I can't help but notice themes from Walker Percy as well. The form of the novel is a string of letters written by the aging Rev. John Ames to his son in which he describes his life and ministry in Iowa during the first half of the 20th century. It also reminds me of Bernanos's Diary of a Country Priest. At one point in his letters, Ames actually refers to this French classic.

Here's a sample (from pp. 27-8). This comes at the end of a long string of reflections on baptism:
That mention of Feuerbach and joy reminded me of something I saw early one morning a few years ago, as I was walking up to the church. There was a young couple strolling along half a block ahead of me. The sun had come up brilliantly after a heavy rain, and the trees were glistening and very wet. On some impulse, plain exuberance, I suppose, the fellow jumped up and caught hold of a branch, and a storm of luminous water came pouring down on the two of them, and they laughed and took off running, the girl sweeping water off her hair and her dress as if she were a little bit disgusted, but she wasn't. It was a beautiful thing to see, like something from a myth. I don't know why I thought of that now, except perhaps because it is easy to believe in such moments that water was made primarily for blessing, and only secondarily for growing vegetables or doing the wash. I wish I had paid more attention to it. My list of regrets may seem unusual, but who can know that they are, really. This is an interesting planet. It deserves all the attention you can give it.

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