From a National Book Award–winning “master of short fiction,” a collection of “sharp, funny and insightful” stories (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution).
Three middle-aged women set off on a vacation in Italy, but are sidelined along the way by terrorist activity. In post-Katrina New Orleans, an elderly couple makes a last effort at independence from caretakers and infirmities. These short stories and others, from the acclaimed author of Victory Over Japan and A Dangerous Age, feature characters dealing with forces beyond their control, yet somehow managing to triumph—even if only in spirit.
“Reading Ellen Gilchrist is addictive . . . Her new work is filled with good people who show fortitude and even heroism under duress . . . In this age of edgy irony, her warm-hearted view of humanity is refreshing.” —NPR
“The stories in Acts of God are great postcards from the world of Ellen Gilchrist. It’s a world of war and strife and surprises, and it is, yes, marvelous to behold.” —The New York Times Book Review
“Gilchrist is at her best when the wry and satirical mood strikes her . . . and it’s a pleasure to report that the best of the stories in Acts of God rank with the best in her first collection and in her second . . . for which she was awarded a richly deserved National Book Award.” —The Washington Post
The South is alive and vibrant in Gilchrist's latest collection of 11 stories, and so are some of her best-known characters, whom readers first met in Gilchrist's 1984 National Book Award winning collection, Victory Over Japan. The redoubtable Rhoda Manning initiates an escalating epistolary exchange with the owner of barking canines in "The Dogs." In "Toccata and Fugue in D Minor," Anna Hand's niece, Louise, meets a devoted editor of her late aunt's books while they're both trapped in Heathrow by a terrorist attack. Many of these characters are longtime habitu s of Gilchrist's fiction, and they typify her trademark Southern women voluble, friendly, strenuously polite, and just a bit eccentric. These "upper-middle-class white protestant princesses" value family lineage, good manners, and meandering, leisurely recollections. Set in New Orleans; Fayetteville, Ark.; and Biloxi, Miss., Gilchrist's narratives are sedate, chatty, and linear, which will attract readers who welcome what is now considered old-fashioned storytelling. In several tales e.g., "A Love Story," "The Dissolution of the Myelin Sheath," "Jumping Off Bridges into Clean Water" Gilchrist veers into sentimental territory, twice employing plots involving suicide. One may carp that Gilchrist gives all of her characters the same voice and verbal cadences, but their dialogue rings with a Southern lilt that makes the characters distinctive and appealing.