Bibliophile reviews Rhoda: A life in stories by Ellen Gilchrist

Year published: 1995
Genre: Fiction, short stories
Setting & time: USA (and Mexico), mostly the south, 1940s to 1990s

This is my fifth and final read for the From the Stacks challenge.

Ellen Gilchrist has been writing short stories about the indomitable Rhoda Manning for most of her career as a writer and the stories in this book are collected from previous short story collections, with excerpts from one novel. They are arranged in chronological order so that they form a collection of sketches of Rhoda's life from the age of 10 until she is a grandmother in her fifties. The stories are not always consistent with details of Rhoda's family and the chronology of her life, which is probably due to the fact that the stories were written over a period of 15 years and were never meant to be read together.

Of the stories, the ones I found the most entertaining were the ones about Rhoda's childhood and teens. She has a spirit of rebelliousness and a streak of independence a mile wide and does anything that comes into her mind, usually without thinking about the consequences. As an adult, she turns into one of those women who can not seem to be happy without a man in their lives, but once she has caught one, she can not be happy with him and leaves him for another, and so on. The stories of her adult life are give one a look into a life that is not altogether happy, but also not altogether unfulfilled.

The writing style is uneven, and the contents range from being funny, emotional and interesting, to being uninteresting, depressing and repetitious. In other words, a very uneven collection.

Rating: The stories range from 2 to 5 stars in quality.


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