Gilead by Marilynne Robinson was published in 2004 and won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2005, amid widespread acclaim. This epistolary novel presents a sympathetic portrait of Reverend John Ames, who writes about his life and his beliefs ever mindful of the fact that he has only a short time to live. Reverend Ames takes up the task of writing in the hopes that his little boy will read this book when he is an adult and thus become acquainted with the father he may barely remember otherwise.
This is a story of fathers and sons. John Ames, the narrator, tells a story of three generations of fathers named John Ames, addressing it to the single direct descendent, the unnamed son readers may assume is the fourth John Ames. The story of the Ames family includes the story of the narrator's best friend, Robert Boughton, and his son who was named after the narrator, John Ames Boughton. In order to reduce confusion, these characters are referred to here in terms of their relationship to the narrator, that is, the narrator's grandfather, the narrator's father, and the narrator's son, to whom the narrator addresses himself in this text. As in the novel, Reverend Boughton's son is referred to by his nickname, Jack.