Told in simple terms but deep in meaning, Child of Gilead is a parable of good versus evil. At stake in their battle is the destiny of a ten-year-old boy, child of an innocent young woman and a hoodlum long departed from their lives. The unnamed boy and his mother, Hannah, live on a street his mother calls The Road Less Traveled. Outside this safety zone is The Madness, where evil flourishes. Hannah ventures into The Madness daily to serve as teacher to children from broken homes.
Narration comes from several viewpoints, including the boy’s, the Old Man who rents their basement apartment, and a few other characters lurking in The Madness, where an ex-soldier’s candy store has fallen into the hands of a gangster. The boy’s chief concern is Hannah’s mysterious unhappiness, whose origin he patiently waits for her to explain.
Steadily and ominously, shadows of the past arise to threaten the little family. The Old Man’s entry into their lives is a pivotal event. Is he here to do good or evil?
Douglas S. Reed’s theme is deeply spiritual, grounded in Biblical scriptures which he uses to develop his thesis that Mankind is not meant to know why evil exists. As the Old Man says, “Trying to answer the ‘whys’ of life will only aggravate you. In the end, needing to know ‘why,’ doesn’t matter.”
Child of Gilead is a well-paced story whose archetypal characters suggest that the hearts of lost souls are borne of betrayal by other lost souls; hence Hannah’s determination to protect her son from them and, above all, to make sure he knows he is loved. Readers who look for spiritual answers in literature will find much to ponder in this novel.
Several pages late in the book contain numerous instances of offensive language, reducing my rating from five stars to four.