We gave it a B
In her ninth book, which begins in the mid-50’s, Ellen Gilchrist (I Cannot Get You Close Enough) tracks a 19-year-old who drinks too much, marries too young, and is bored by her own children. The plucky Rhoda Manning has appeared in many of Gilchrist’s short stories; in Net of Jewels she positively struts. A spoiled and beguiling little monster, she struggles to free herself from the constraints of upper-crust Southern society, yet insists on enjoying all its advantages.
Interestingly, Gilchrist chooses not describe Rhoda’s transformation into a ”better” person, though a jump-cut conclusion indicates that by fiftysomething she has quit drinking and become a writer. While her story is refreshingly sermon-free, its author never explains just how this silly girl escapes the collision course of her youth.
”If we could understand one thing entirely, we might understand it all.” Rhoda philosophizes. The same could be said of Net of Jewels, an engaging novel that, for all its beauty and emotional horsepower, refuses to reveal its purpose. B