Marilynne Robinson
Farrar, Straus, and Giroux,
256 pp., $23

Of Fathers and Sons

The sometimes-fractured relationships between fathers and sons are the heart of this stellar second novel from Marilynne Robinson (Housekeeping, 1981).

In finely crafted prose, Robinson unfolds the first-person ruminations of 76-year-old John Ames of Gilead, Iowa, the son and grandson of pastors. Knowing that his heart is failing, Ames attempts to write down his thoughts for his 6-year-old son to read when he is grown.

Set in 1956, the story offers many historical reflections as Ames looks back on the Civil War and abolition. Ames recalls the rifts between his father and grandfather: "In a spirit of Christian forgiveness very becoming to men of the cloth … they had buried their differences. It must be said, however, that they buried them not very deeply, and perhaps more as one would bank a fire than smother it."

Gilead brims with all the love, misunderstanding, joy, and frustration that can characterize father/son relationships. This luminous novel glows with imagery and insight, and it's rich with meditations on the life of faith.

THE SCANDAL OF THE EVANGELICAL CONSCIENCE: Why Are Christians Living Just Like the Rest of the World?
Ronald J. Sider
144 pp., $12.99

Challenging Cheap Grace

American popular culture is "sick, sick unto death," and scandalous behavior is rapidly destroying American Christianity, asserts Evangelicals for Social Action president Ronald Sider (Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger).

"By their daily activity, most 'Christians' regularly commit treason," Sider writes. "With their mouths they claim that Jesus is Lord, but with their actions they demonstrate allegiance to money, sex, and self-fulfillment." ...

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