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Gilead

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While not directly related to baby loss, the universally relatable topic of loss and existence has never been so beautifully expressed than this 2004 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. An ideal literary companion for those in situations of loss or grief. Anything.

Nearly 25 years after Housekeeping, Marilynne Robinson returns with an intimate tale of three generations, from the Civil War to the 20th century: a story about fathers and sons and the spiritual battles that still rage at America's heart. In the words of Kirkus, it is a novel "as big as a nation, as quiet as thought, and moving as prayer. Matchless and towering." Gilead tells the story of America and will break your heart.

The narrator, John Ames, is 76, a preacher who has lived almost all of his life in Gilead, Iowa. He is writing a letter to his almost seven-year-old son, the blessing of his second marriage. It is a summing-up, an apologia, a consideration of his life. Robinson takes the story away from being simply the reminiscences of one man and moves it into the realm of a meditation on fathers and children, particularly sons, on faith, and on the imperfectability of man.

The other constant in the book is Ames's friendship since childhood with "old Boughton," a Presbyterian minister. Boughton, father of many children, favors his son, named John Ames Boughton, above all others. Ames must constantly monitor his tendency to be envious of Boughton's bounteous family; his first wife died in childbirth and the baby died almost immediately after her. Jack Boughton is a ne'er-do-well, Ames knows it and strives to love him as he knows he should. Jack arrives in Gilead after a long absence, full of charm and mischief, causing Ames to wonder what influence he might have on Ames's young wife and son when Ames dies.

Why We Love this Gift:  Gilead is an awe-inspiring book about family and love and the complexity of living and of dying. In prose that is both haunting and simple, Robinson explains that the extreme trials of life are often mysterious.  In elegant terms, she gently reminds the reader that finding complex and hard-won beauty in existence is entirely possible. The editorial staff at Give InKind agree that in our darkest hour, this was the book that offered hope. It scaffolded a sense of trying to understand what defies understanding.

What To Express in Your Card: I have not read this book. However, I understand from others that many who have faced unendurable loss have taken some complex comfort within its pages. It isn't simple, but what you are facing is as difficult as it gets. I wanted you to know that I want to support you in any way. I wanted to try to find something that others have found helpful. I hope you find it to be so. I send you my love.

Possible Trigger(s): Infant death, end of life, estrangement from child.

This book is a top pick of Give InKind editorial staff.

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