"To say that Ellen Gilchrist can write is to say that Placido Domingo can sing. All you have to do is listen." —Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post
In three stunning intertwining novellas Ellen Gilchrist explores the tumultuous nature of family and the ties that bond even beyond death.
Journeying through the lives of different members of the Hand family, Gilchrist masterfully weaves together the tumultuous relationships that are bound by blood. A harrowing custody battle leads Anna Hand to Istanbul and back to ensure once and for all that her niece is safe from her conniving mother’s ploys.
Jessie, finally free from her mother’s influence, has her life completely upended when Olivia, the sister she never knew she had appears at the Hands’ home. With a new sister and the shocking loss of her aunt, Jessie doesn’t know if her resentment of Olivia comes from their chaotic meeting or something suspicious bubbling just beneath Olivia’s surface.
Olivia, the half-Native American child who had never known a normal family, must cope with this new world of high society. Losing Anna, her very first advocate to the Hand family and having a dark and desperate secret exposed may send her back to Tahlequah, if it doesn’t send her over the edge first.
Anna, leaving a legacy of literature in her wake, in death may do more harm than she ever wanted in life as her sister enters a vicious fight to recover her lost writing.
Readers of Gilchrist's short story collections ( Victory over Japan ; I Cannot Get You Close Enough ) have watched headstrong Rhoda Manning grow into an intelligent, independent yet spoiled and self-destructive adult. In making her the protagonist of this compelling novel, Gilchrist has broadened and deepened her portrayal to create a fascinating portrait of a young woman's difficult coming-of-age in the Deep South of the 1950s. Eschewing the prettified characteristics of a conventional heroine, Gilchrist candidly depicts Rhoda's racial and class prejudices and essential disinterest in civil rights until growing maturity deepens her understanding and involves her in a personal way. Meanwhile, we gain insight into her family's dynamics--her domineering, hot-tempered father and class-obsessed mother--and the influences that make her conform not only to the image of the Southern party girl but also to abuse alcohol and rely on habit-forming drugs. Not surprisingly, Rhoda is drawn to a man who resembles her father; her marriage to Malcolm Martin, an ``ice cold Georgia aristocrat with a fierce libido,'' is disastrous. Gracefully evoking a time and place--with the cruelty of social injustice subsumed beneath the daily routines of a rich life--Gilchrist surrounds Rhoda with other characters of appealing vitality.