Former President of the United States Barack Obama lists the novel as one of his favorites on his official Facebook profile.  On September 14, 2015, in Des Moines, Iowa , in a reversal of the usual journalistic convention, President Obama interviewed Marilynne Robinson for The New York Review of Books , and told her, "I first picked up Gilead , one of your most wonderful books, here in Iowa. Because I was campaigning at the time, and there’s a lot of downtime when you’re driving between towns and when you get home late from campaigning..... And I’ve told you this — one of my favorite characters in fiction is a pastor in Gilead, Iowa, named John Ames, who is gracious and courtly and a little bit confused about how to reconcile his faith with all the various travails that his family goes through. And I was just — I just fell in love with the character, fell in love with the book..." 
Here we must take note of two particular elements in the history of the Brontës: the reality of tuberculosis, the disease which in all likelihood claimed the lives of five of the Brontë siblings, and the psychological toll of the first two of these deaths on the surviving family. Tuberculosis (or consumption, as the Victorians called it) was both widespread and incurable in those days, sometimes making slow progress for years before it killed its victims. As it progressed, it gradually ulcerated the lungs, producing a chronic cough and making breathing more and more difficult, until finally it spread into the other organs and began to ulcerate them. By this time, death was imminent.