The amazing Chuck Adams, editor of great and well-earned acclaim, explains how and why he responds so profoundly to Ellen Gilchrist’s new collection, Acts of God. After you read what Chuck has written, you will have no choice but to enter for a chance to win a copy of Acts of God — “storytelling at its very best.”
I grew up in the South, on a tobacco farm. I went to college in the South, at Duke University, just as the school was on the verge of shedding its country club image. As a result, I was raised on the great tradition of Southern storytelling, reading works by such writers as Flannery O’Connor, Walker Percy, Frances Parkinson Keyes, Peter Taylor, Carson McCullers, and Truman Capote. When, much later, as an editor at Algonquin Books, I was given the opportunity to work with Ellen Gilchrist, one of the greatest and most critically acclaimed of the Southern writers, I was ecstatic. I loved her minimalist prose, the bittersweetness of her stories, and her wonderful characters, especially the women.
The women that Ellen writes about are true Southern ladies, steeped in tradition, raised on good manners, sometimes spoiled and pampered, sometimes a tad self-absorbed, but always ready to stand up for themselves and for those they love, always ready to give the good fight. I knew those women growing up and then later worked with some of them as transplants in the North. I loved them, I feared them, but perhaps most notably, I held them in the greatest respect—their strength of character was awesome, and their belief in their own truth was unshakable. It is this strength, this depth of character, this resilience that Ellen Gilchrist celebrates in her remarkable new story collection, Acts of God. Whether ruefully reflecting on the vagaries of old age, or wistfully wondering about what the future will hold, the characters who people these ten new stories all come alive on the page, bringing readers into their lives and taking them along on their journeys of self discovery. This is storytelling at its very best. Read these stories, all linked thematically through events beyond the control of their characters, and you will see what I mean.