Portrait of a pastor

Mysteries and blessings
It seems as if all the pastors I know either have read Marilynne Robinson’s novel Gilead or claim that it is on the top of the pile of books they intend to read. Pastors—myself among them—love the book. Some of the reasons are obvious. The novel is beautifully written, a spare meditation on the ways in which grace insinuates itself into the most unlikely settings, like a worn little town in Iowa or the relationship between a father and son. Also, the narrator, John Ames, is a pastor, and Robinson has made him a sympathetic character.

In a recent radio interview, Robinson mentioned that she gets a lot of mail from pastors, and the interviewer asked why that might be so. Robinson replied: “I think one of the main reasons is because ministers and priests are very used to being described in the most unflattering terms in literature, and they are quite pleased . . . to find that I have made a character who is likable, positive, intelligent, not a hypocrite.”


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