Robinson writes about a Midwestern preacher leaving a written legacy for his son. The novel takes place in 1956 and takes us inside the mind of a preacher with profound wisdom. While it sometimes comes across as an apologia and fireside chat, the content is so beautifully written that we feel privileged to listen to the words of Rev. John Ames.
Some nuggets from this book are too good not to be shared: "A little too much anger, too often or at the wrong time, can destroy more than you would ever imagine. Above all, mind what you say. 'Behold how much wood is kindled by how small a fire, and the tongue is a fire.'"
Aside from advice, Robinson's language will soothe any reader: "The graveyard was about the loneliest place you could imagine. If I were to say it was going back to nature, you might get the idea there was some vitality about the place. But it was parched and sun-stricken. It was hard to imagine the grass had ever been green. Everywhere you stepped, little grasshoppers would fly up by the score, making that snap they do, like striking a match."
Rev. Ames' ability to be self-aware and also transfer his knowledge to us makes him a special character--few characters are written as self-aware, intelligent, and articulate. Knowing his son will spend most of his life fatherless, he writes, "You are drawing those terrible little pictures that you will bring me to admire, and which I will admire because I have not the heart to say one word that you might remember against me." In an age of attention-seeking, Rev. Ames reminds us that humility and quiet compassion still have much to teach this generation. The mere act of reading Robinson's novel will transport you into a slower, more gentle world.