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Nora Jane: A Life in Storiesby Ellen Gilchrist
Synopses & Reviews
At last — Ellen Gilchrist's beloved Nora Jane stories, gathered together for the first time in a vibrant, hilarious, and deeply moving collection.
Gilchrist fans have long enjoyed their glimpses of smart, willful Nora Jane Harwood in six previous collections. Here now are the collected Nora Jane stories — including a new novella — following her from scrappy adolescence in New Orleans through a delightfully eccentric life as wife, mother, and independent spirit in Berkeley, California.
"Gilchrist (I, Rhoda Manning, Go Hunting With My Daddy) gathers 14 moving, lightly humorous short stories (previously published) and a novella (new) starring Nora Jane Whittington, as she robs a New Orleans old-boys bar with icy aplomb and sets off, 'like a woman in a dream,' to meet her faithless lover in San Francisco. Rising above a tragic upbringing, Nora Jane becomes a 'self-taught anarchist and quick-change artist' set to scam her way out of the South. But when she pulls her gun on wealthy bookstore owner Freddy Harwood, her steely edge melts in his all-consuming adoration. Then Nora Jane must learn to accept the blessings that rain down upon her, starting when Freddy marries her and raises her gifted twin girls of dubious paternity as if they were his own. Gilchrist finds a font of inspiration in Nora Jane, an intriguing blend of magnolia charm and iron will, and in her circle of friends, whose fierce love and faith invites serendipity at every turn. With insightful, illuminating prose, Gilchrist nimbly slips into their lives, story after story, to meditate on the miracles that see them through dark days. The Berkeley milieu, with its giant Buddha statue that captures Nora Jane's fancy, inspires Gilchrist to spike her writing with a heady optimism, mingling science with mysticism and dabbles of magical realism. Even Freddy's illness brings out the wonders of Gilchrist's world. Frequent overlap between stories cause a few narrative bumps, but that's a minor quibble. Taken together, the stories amount to a stirring saga of a charmed life. " Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Nora Jane is an admirable character, and Gilchrist's creation of her is a literary triumph. No fiction writer understands his or her own characters better than Gilchrist....This collection is a major contribution to Gilchrist's oeuvre." Booklist (Starred Review)
"[B]rings both Gilchrist's family of characters and her bedrock themes to artful maturation. Very few writers can write intelligent comedy about the philosophical pursuit of happiness. Laurie Colwin was one. Ellen Gilchrist is another. Hooray for Nora Jane!" Kirkus Reviews
Since receiving the National Book Award for Victory Over Japan in 1985, Ellen Gilchrist has developed a fervently devoted readership. Taken together, Gilchrist's previous books have sold more than 500,000 copies in Back Bay's trade paperback editions. This collection's new novella is vintage Gilchrist, taking on the continuing joys and perils of Nora Jane and company.
About the Author
Ellen Gilchrist is the critically acclaimed author of ten previous books, including the National Book Award-winning Victory Over Japan and, most recently, Starcarbon. Some of the stories in this collection were first published in the Atlantic and Story. She lives in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
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