I was going to start this post off with "there aren't many books that make a grown man cry", but how true is that really? Off the top off my head I can think of To Kill a Mockingbird, Anna Karenina, Elie Wiesel's Night, Cormack McCarthy's The Road, James Salter's Light Years.
Well I finished Gilead by Marilynne Robinson last night and I cannot believe it took 15 years since its publication for me to read it. I know Obama interviewed the author while he was president and there are many things I can fault the man for, but his taste in literature isn't one of them.
This is a grand work and it belongs in whatever modern canon we are now using.
An epistolary novel, it is the fictional autobiography of a dying preacher in Iowa, written as a journal-memoire-letter for his young son to remember him by. You start the first pages with a lump in your throat.
The whole thing serves as a memento mori. It calls us to examine our life from the perspective of our death. And that's certainly one way to connect deeply with your Being.
If you enjoy reading fiction and you enjoy language and maybe if you enjoy theology, please read this. The end is one of the most powerful I've read in contemporary literature:
“I'll pray that you grow up a brave man in a brave country.
I will pray you find a way to be useful.
I'll pray, and then I'll sleep.”