Thursday, September 3, 2009

Favorite Passages: Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson

For those of you who followed this blog over the summer, and for anyone who had contact with me in the month of July, you know all about my obsession with Marilynne Robinson's perfect novel, Gilead. I love this book with a fierceness I cannot fully explain. Beautifully written, carefully constructed, I honestly believe it to be one of the best books I have ever encountered. So, sorry for all of those who are sick of hearing about this book, but here it is again making an appearance.

This weekend while visiting some friends, I saw the book sitting in my former roommate's living room. She was reading it at my recommendation, and as usually happens when I see a book I love lying somewhere, I picked it up and began flipping through it. This was the first passage I came across. It automatically reminded me why I hold this novel so dear. In this little paragraph, the minister John Ames (who narrates the book as a deathbed letter to his small son) reflects on water and baptism. I hope you enjoy the passage, and pay close attention to the awesome in-voice transition that starts the last sentence.

From Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson:

You and Tobias are hopping around in the sprinkler. The sprinkler is a magnificent invention because it exposes raindrops to sunshine. That does occur in nature, but it is rare. When I was in seminary I used to go sometimes to watch the Baptists down at the river. It was something to see the pastor lifting the one who was being baptized up out of the water and the water pouring off the garments and the hair. It did look like a birth or resurrection. For us the water just heightens the touch of the pastor's hand on the sweet bones of the head, sort of like making an electrical connection. I've always loved to baptize people, though I have sometimes wished there were more shimmer and splash involved in the way we go about it. Well, but you two are dancing around in your iridescent little downpour, whooping and stomping as sane people ought to do when they encounter a thing so miraculous as water.

Happy Reading to all!


  1. I was at the bookstore the other day, and a worker pointed out to me that the sequel to Gilead just came out. I'm guessing you already know, but if not... now you do!

    Great passage =)

  2. So creepy - cause I just totally bought it Tuesday to read on my roadtrip this weekend. I am sooo excited.