The Age of Miracles: Stories

Ellen Gilchrist, Author Little Brown and Company $22.95 (260p) ISBN 978-0-316-31442-8
Back in top form after several books that seemed self-indulgent, Gilchrist offers 16 stories that shine with tolerance for the vagaries of human nature. Set mainly in Fayetteville, Ark., and New Orleans, the tales here have both substance and subtext, and are artfully fashioned. Most are told in an easy conversational style, as though Gilchrist and the listener were on a porch settee sipping glasses of Scotch. Marked by wit as well as a weathered view of the battle of the sexes, they feature unconventional, strong-willed, impetuous women who hurt those they love, innocent children bewildered by their elders' behavior and one or two shining examples of human beings. The narrators are often middle-aged women who indulge in acerbic aper us fueled by an undercurrent of pain. Feisty, sexy Rhoda Manning, whom we met in Victory Over Japan and later books, appears in half of the stories here, learning to be a writer, endeavoring to be a good mother, fighting the lure of the bottle or succumbing to yet another flirtation that leads to ``fucking without mercy.'' Standouts among the stories, which intertwine, include the wise and poignant ``Love of My Life'' and ``Joyce,'' and the larky ``Divorce.'' Gilchrist is outspoken about abortion rights, rueful about the effect of AIDS, irreverent about the insurance industry (in a lightweight but funny epistolary story). ``The massive tentacles of... family'' continue to haunt her characters, but they cope with what life brings them, crazy survivors in an imperfect world. (May)
Reviewed on: 05/01/1995
Release date: 05/01/1995
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