This is a difficult book to describe. It could be called perfect, if that were even possible. It is only partly historical, partly a study in humanity, and partly mystery. But mostly it is a presentment of the reality of faith.
As to the history, Rev. John Ames has served the Congregational church in Gilead, Iowa for decades. He took over the church from his father who followed his father into the family business. Grandfather John Ames left the east, like many others, and did all he could to have Kansas enter the Union as a free state. No details were given but he did ride with John Brown and Jim Lane. He later served in the war and lost one eye.
That one-eyed, fire-breathing preacher could make his grandson shake in fear without saying a word. The middle Ames became a pacifist, which no doubt upset the fire-breather.
You will have to read many pages to get their whole stories because the center of the plot involves the current John Ames writing a note or diary to his seven-year old son. John turns 77 in this book. He married a woman half his age a decade earlier and their son was born. Now, John’s heart is going to stop any minute, so he wants his son to read the ‘note’ when he is an adult.
This is a Pulitzer Prize book for a reason and that is not because of some sentimental religious dressing. However, if you are not afraid to hang out with someone who has learned some lessons about what is and is not faith, this book is about as good a read as you are likely to pick any time.