Books by Mississippi Writers 1996-2010
By Ellen Gilchrist (Little, Brown & Company hardcover, $25.95, ISBN: 0316173584, 9/2002; Back Bay Books paperback, ISBN: 0316738689, 8/2003) Gilchrist’s most captivating recurring character, the classy and indomitable Rhoda Manning, starred in many of the best offerings in Gilchrist’s altogether splendid Collected Stories (2000). Now more fascinating than ever at age 65, Rhoda rules this potent new collection, too, as she reflects on her contentious past, especially her complicated relationships with her tough and commanding father and her three headstrong sons. Her macho and assiduous father amassed a fortune selling tractors, abruptly left the “decadent” South for the clean and godly mountains of Wyoming, then schemed to lure his clan to his new world. Rhoda finally recognizes how much she resembles her impossible but righteous father, how much she misses him, and how much they both suffered over their failure to keep her wily sons away from drugs and other risky escapades. With Rhoda as her foil, Gilchrist writes with startling clarity about the narcotized 1970s, the wildness of teenagers, and the helplessness of parents. Another of her intriguing regulars, Nora Jane, headlines in a superbly suspenseful tale that is set in earthquake-rocked San Francisco and features a band of Islamic terrorists. A virtuoso in the art of understatement with a profound sense of place and a flair for sly dialogue, Gilchrist choreographs unnerving scenarios with a devilish offhandedness. Acutely observant, wry, and wise, Gilchrist loves to write about characters who have it all—beauty, wealth, and strong family ties—and therefore stand to lose so very much. “Nothing human is easy,” says a woman in one spring-loaded tale, and that says it all. —Donna Seaman. Booklist. Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved.