from Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

This is the week for novels about religious life by wimen authors, I guess. I’m not sure how the stars and planets alligned for this, but I’m certainly glad they have. Perhaps I’ll have more to say about the entire book after I’ve finished it, but for now I’d like to share what is one of the most beautiful three paragraphs I’ve read in quite some time:

There’s a shimmer on a child’s hair, in the sunlight. There are rainbow colors in it, tiny, soft beams of just the same colors you can see in the dew sometimes. They’re in the petals of flowers, and they’re on a child’s skin. Your hair is straight and dark, and your skin is very fair. I suppose you’re not prettier than most children. You’re just a nice-looking boy, a bit slight, well scrubbed and well mannered. All that is fine, but it’s your existence I love you for, mainly. Existence seems to me now the most remarkable thing that could ever be imagined. I’m about to put on imperishability. In an instant, in the twinkling of an eye.

The twinkling of an eye. That is the most wonderful expression. I’ve thought from time to time it was the best thing in life, that little incandescence you see in people when the charm of a thing strikes them, or the humor of it. “The light of the eyes rejoiceth the heart.” That’s a fact.

While you read this, I am imperishable, somehow more alive than I have ever been, in the strenght of my youth, with dear ones beside me. You read the dreams of an anxious, fuddled old man, and I live in a light better than any dream of mine – not waiting for you, though, because I want your dear perishable self to live long and to love this poor perishable world, which I somehow cannot imagine not missing bitterly, even while I do long to see what it will mean to have wife and child restored to me, I mean Louisa and Rebecca. I have wondered about that for many years. Well, this old seed is about to drop into the ground. Then I’ll know.

I was going to provide the context, but after copying it all out, I don’t think I’ll bother. It works pretty well even without it.


  1. almostgotit says

    Hurray for Marilynne Robinson! She is a fantastic essayist, too. One of my favorites is “The tyranny of petty coercion”

  2. Nice extract.

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