Easy to read
I swiped this book from the Utne shelves because it sounded intriguing. Plus, I have a liking for Southern fiction. A Dangerous Age by Ellen Gilchrist follows the likes of three women from the Hand family. If you’ve read any other Gilchrist novels (which I haven’t) you’ll probably recognize the Hand’s. It is “a celebration of the strength” and “bonds of blood and shared loss.”
First, I must say that the term Southern is used pretty loosely, in my mind. A bulk of the story resides in Oklahoma, though many of the other Hand relatives live in North Carolina or some other more southerly state. The story follows one, Ms. Olivia Hand, though at the beginning it seems that our main character is more likely Winifred or Louise. Due to this shift, the plot and character development seemed disorganized, and somewhat unplanned.
Olivia, once in the picture, is the obvious front-runner in character though. She’s passionate, strong, and stubborn. She lives fast, and by her own rules. It seems as if nothing can get her down. Yet, the feminist in me doesn’t root for any of these women. While I may feel for their loss of love, and other problems, they fall prey to same things women are supposed to fall prey to—men—and not in a good way.
Each Hand cousin gets entwined with a US Marine. No shame in that, but their lives then seemingly revolve around those men. Olivia, once obsessed with her job as editor of the Tulsa newspaper, begins missing work because she’s fallen in love (or more realistically, never fallen out of love) with her ex-husband whom she allows to casually saunter in-and-out of her life. What once appeared, to this reader, as a strong, independent woman is now a sham.
The prose was easy to read, but nothing special. Gilchrist’s addition of Native American family and traditions was interesting. The most enjoyable parts occurred at Olivia’s grandparents’—full-blooded Cherokees—home in Tahlequah. Had the novel focused more on the mysticism of Cherokee tradition, I probably would have liked it more.
For all the praise on the front and back covers, A Dangerous Age wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. If you’re looking for a quick read, or a beach page-turner, this might hit the spot—and I strongly stress the might of it. Perhaps best left for those filling summer reading with non-textbooks and school-related literature, Gilchrist could be a breath of fresh air.