Marilynne Robinson’s epistolary novel Gilead (2004) opens in a moment of quiet. The text is a letter from the elderly Reverend John Ames to his six-year-old son, Robby, for whom Ames is writing a personal history and ‘begats’.1 Robinson’s prose slows when Ames’ final illness develops and it pauses when he pauses. Yet despite the primacy of the Reverend’s voice, the novel begins with Ames’ silence. ‘You reached up’, he writes at the end of the first page, addressing the young son sitting on his lap, ‘and put your fingers on my lips and gave me that look […] a kind of furious pride, very passionate and stern’ (...
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