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Acts of God Hardcover – April 8, 2014
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*Starred Review* Gilchrist will remain forever beloved for Victory over Japan (1984), her National Book Award–winning collection of short stories. Many outstanding novels have been added to her oeuvre over the years, but Gilchrist’s deliciously wise and humorous voice abides best in the short story form, and her new collection of 10 stories will say to her fans that their reconnection to this openhearted writer from the South is a pure old-home-week experience (especially given that recurring Gilchrist characters make welcome appearances). A thematic connection unifies the stories, which generally reflect recent national events and current social and political conditions that put individuals’ moxie to the test. For instance, “Toccata and Fugue in D Minor,” a beautiful, smart, phenomenally rich story, sees three middle-aged women, former college buddies, off to a vacation in Italy, but they are sidelined along the way by terrorist activity; in post-Katrina New Orleans in the title story, an elderly couple’s last effort at independence from caretakers and infirmities has fatal results, but after their deaths, their youngest son creates an elaborate family tree celebrating life over death. Gilchrist has no interest in soap-box preaching or, for that matter, in sentiment. It’s character exploration she seeks, pure and simple. --Brad Hooper
“[Gilchrist’s] style can be an acquired taste. If I were you, I’d acquire it . . . Gilchrist manages to cut through the loud tussle of the world to present truths made even more striking by how conventional they are . . . 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
“Admirers of her work, among whom I am most certainly to be counted, will find much herein that is familiar and pleasing . . . Gilchrist is at her best when the wry and satirical mood strikes her, especially when she is pricking the balloons of pride that the white Southern upper middle class inflates in its own honor. Now in her late 70s, she has lost none of the zing that brought In the Land of Dreamy Dreams to such wholly unexpected attention, 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, Victory Over Japan, for which she was awarded a richly deserved National Book Award in 1984.” ―The Washington Post
“Flawlessly precise.” ―ReadersDigest.com
“Reading Ellen Gilchrist is addictive . . . Partly, it's the sassy voice that snares you, and partly it's her tight circle of recurrent characters--feisty, unabashedly sexed Southern women, many of whom are related by birth or marriage . . . 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.org
“A joy to read. Her protagonists all feel very alive and real.” ―Bust
“[Gilchrist’s] protagonists are generally beautiful and strong, sometimes shallow and often deeply flawed--but they’re always interesting, especially when they’re tested . . . In Acts of God, though, they learn a lesson that Gilchrist’s characters often don’t: that even the rich and the powerful, the quick-witted and the good-looking are vulnerable to storms and disasters, to illness and aging and death . . . These 10 new stories remind the reader we’re all vulnerable to chance, whether it’s a hurricane or a love affair. And these characters, the old ones and the new, settle seamlessly into Gilchrist’s seductive Southern world.” ―Houston Chronicle
“The stories are laced through with good humor and hints of the miraculous . . . There is something--a magic that’s difficult to clarify, that may be corny in someone else’s eyes--to Gilchrist’s work that doesn’t come around often . . . Gilchrist still has the power to turn a simple line into a profound insight on what it’s like to be human. Aging and death are the twin ghouls running throughout Acts of God, looming over the characters, and the result of looking into the void gives these stories wisdom and compassion, or to quote Gilchrist: ‘Glad to be alive in the only world there is, alive and eating and still breathing and not afraid really of anything that might happen next.’” ―Flavorpill.com
“Gilchrist’s deliciously wise and humorous voice abides best in the short story form, and her new collection of 10 stories will say to her fans that their reconnection to this openhearted writer from the South is a pure old-home-week experience . . . Beautiful, smart, phenomenally rich.” ―Booklist (starred review)
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I fell in love with all her characters and they seemed like people I knew. But, in this book, I missed all those people as only Rhoda appeared. The first two stories lacked her lyrical writing. But, I was thrilled to see that she is writing again and return to her wonderful southern characters as I always want to know what is going on with them.