Reading this book is like reading poetry written in prose. Each phrase is full, rich, radiant. The images and metaphors bring out meaning that’s beyond the actual words or stories. It’s a book that touches the reader deep inside, and it’s not a book to rush through. It’s meant to be savored.
This book is a letter, written by a dying man to his young son. John Ames, the narrator, is a pastor in rural Iowa. He’s writing in hopes of giving his son a picture of who he is and where he has come from – in hopes of overcoming the fact that his son will likely be left with only vague memories of him as an old man. The letter takes on a life of its own. It becomes a record of his thoughts, a plunge into his memories, a confession of his fears.
The characters in this book are deep – and very real. John Ames is a man full of life, hope, and kindness. He’s a man who’s struggled with bitter loneliness, and been pulled out of it into a renewed wonder at life in his old age. In the course of his stories and musings, we are introduced to other memorable people in his life: his fiery abolitionist grandfather, his quietly intense wife, his difficult and struggling namesake. One comes away from this book with renewed understanding of the depth and struggles of humanity.
John Ames is a very spiritual man, and this book deals perceptively with what it means to live a faithful and devoted life. Though it’s about a pastor, it’s not “preachy.” Many of John Ames’ struggles are with the interaction between his faith and his life. He asks the tough questions, and learns more of how to live out love and forgiveness.
No, this book isn’t a page turner. But it’s beautifully and subtly written and has incredible depth in its characters. It’s a book that will impact your perspective on what it means to be human.