John Ames, a third-generation preacher, is dying of heart disease. It is 1956, and he decides to write a journal of his life for his seven-year-old son. He married late in life, and, at seventy-six, wants to pass along wisdom that he will not be able to share in person. He tells stories of his grandfather who left Maine, filled with the spirit of the lord, to fight for abolition in Kansas and then in the Civil War, returning partially blind. There are also stories about the conflict between his pacifist father and his smoke and brimstone grandfather. In addition, the theme of father-son relations is further explored in stories of his best friend John Ames Boughton and his unruly son, named after him.
Marilynne Robinson has written a remarkable meditation. John Ames’ reflections on his solitary, yet never lonely life, is vibrant with intense observations of the seemingly mundane but quintessential human experiences. The story balances the radiant pleasure of living with the stark awareness of mortality. The consistent tone of the novel is one of enduring joy. This is an extraordinary book.