by Marilynne Robinson
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $23, 247 pp.
John Ames, a seventy-six-year-old pastor in Gilead, Iowa, is dying of heart disease. So that his seven-year-old son will know him after his death, he is composing a volume of his "begats": an account of his heritage which stretches beyond genealogy and history to include ruminations, instructions, meditations, and exultations on the mysteries of our earthly existence.
Gilead is Robinson's second novel. Her first,...
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