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Rhoda: A Life in Stories

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Rhoda: A Life in Stories

Current Status:
In Season
Ellen Gilchrist

We gave it an A-

Rhoda: A Life in Stories, a novel by Ellen Gilchrist, features a character like Scarlett O’Hara, updated and turned into a recovering alcoholic writer. Or Blanche DuBois, but stronger and richer. Imagine a cross between Eloise and Emma Bovary and Annie Oakley, and then you’ll have some idea of what Rhoda, the quintessential Southern woman of the second half of the 20th century, is like. Rhoda came into the world in a Gilchrist short story written 15 years ago, and she has made repeated appearances in stories since then — all of which have been gathered in this work. It’s not exactly a novel, but it’s close to one; each story is a chapter, and together they read as a life. They are also, however, self-contained and finished on their own terms, and those terms are very high. Gilchrist is a lovely, pointed writer, capable of making great leaps in reality seem like nothing much, and of making the simplest sentence also the truest. Whether you like her character or not, she is a fully realized creation. And one not to be dismissed lightly. A-