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Acts of God by Ellen Gilchrist

Acts of God

by Ellen Gilchrist

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I have been a fan of Ellen Gilchrist's for many years and when I saw this new collection of short stories, I was very much looking forward to reading it. Unfortunately I was disappointed. Don't get me wrong. There are some great moments in Acts of God, but there are also stories that cover so much ground chronologically and don't envelop the reader because it seems as if the theme or the idea is more important than the characters' relationships to them.

Most of the stories are about upheaval or disasters and human reaction to them. Perhaps the best is the one in which a young woman who is in the Air National Guard is called to New Orleans to rescue people from roofs after Katrina. This is one of the few stories in which a virtuous act is not cushioned by selfishness or self-absorption, but one in which the character reacts to horrors and the small miracles and feels changed and is changed.

Perhaps a couple of the other stories ring true simply because the characters are materialistic and self-absorbed and view an extraordinary situation from the viewpoint of what they can get from it or what it will make them into. There is some heavy-handedness with what I consider to be preachiness and I am not certain that it's Gilchrist's intent for that to be unleashed upon the reader (because I am giving her the benefit of the doubt), but then again, it's been years since I have read any of her work and maybe what I once overlooked is now an elephant. ( )
  SaschaD | Apr 28, 2016 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Touching stories, most dealing with disasters of one kind or another, and their aftermath; all are beautifully written. Most of the stories were very engaging, and I cared about many of the characters. I wished some of the stories were longer, though, because I didn't want them to end so soon. ( )
  readaholic12 | Jan 19, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I received a copy of this book in a LibraryThing giveaway.

Like many short story collections, this one is a mixed bag. My favorites are the first one, "Acts of God," and the one brief bit of comic relief, "The Dogs," featuring the reliable Rhoda Manning. There are some good ideas and observations about the way people act in emergencies, how they deal with fear and the unknown. For me, though, most of the individual stories aren't that remarkable. ( )
  tercat | Oct 10, 2014 |
Delightfully positive and poignant short stories, set in the New Orleans area.
  laflibrary | Sep 5, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This collection of mostly saccharine short stories is redeemed only by the quality of Gilchrist's writing. The stories are mostly set in the south, and the hurricane's destruction of New Orleans and other areas in Louisiana and Mississippi set the background or most of the stories. While that is the main "act of God" referred to by the title, there are many others, including deaths, life-saving actions, and love. There are only a couple stories in which Gilchrist resists the urge to moralize or otherwise tack on an ending that brings the story more in line with a cliche than with the quality of writing I expect from her. Overall, I was very disappointed in this collection. ( )
  wrmjr66 | Sep 4, 2014 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 161620110X, Hardcover)

Critically acclaimed writer Ellen Gilchrist, winner of the National Book Award, returns with her first story collection in eight years.

In Acts of God, master short story writer Ellen Gilchrist has crafted a collection that takes us into eleven scenarios in which people dealing with forces beyond their control somehow manage to survive, persevere, and even triumph.

For Marie James, a teenager from Fayetteville, Arkansas, the future changes when she joins a group of friends in their effort to find survivors among the debris left when a tornado destroys a neighboring town. For Philipa, taking control of her own fate is the greatest act of courage she can imagine, and the most difficult. For Eli Naylor, left orphaned by a flood, there arrives the understanding that out of tragedy can come the greatest good. In one way or another, all of these people are survivors who find the strength to go on when confronted with their own mortality, and they come alive in these stories, told with clear-eyed optimism and a salty sense of humor.

As a critic in the Washington Post wrote in reviewing an earlier work, “To say that Ellen Gilchrist can write is to say that Placido Domingo can sing. All you need to do is listen.”

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:20 -0400)

Presents eleven scenarios in which people survive, persevere, and even triumph over forces beyond their control, from a teenager joining in the search for survivors after a tornado to a woman taking control over her fate, which is her greatest act of courage.… (more)

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