Disaster becomes the impetus for renewed faith in goodness, love and spiritual uplift in these 10 stories about kindhearted Southerners from Gilchrist (A Dangerous Age, 2008, etc.).
In the title story, Hurricane Katrina is a sideline disaster. An elderly couple, beloveds since high school in homespun Madison, Ga. (in reality, a town of restored quaintness full of retirees and tourists), is left on their own when their caregiver stays home to deal long distance with her evacuated son. Driving home from the grocery store, the octogenarians have a fatal accident, but the aftermath turns into a celebration of expanding connections. Similarly, in “The Dissolution of Myelin Sheath,” an ailing woman’s suicide influences her daughter’s therapist to appreciate life more. More elderly lovers appear in the sketch “A Love Story” and in “Jumping Off Bridges into Clean Water,” which skims nearly 50 years of another devoted relationship. Five teenage volunteers at the site of a tornado find the level of goodness in their lives permanently raised after they find a living baby in “Miracle in Adkins, Arkansas.” Ditto the accounting instructor in “Collateral,” who finds herself a husband after her stint in the National Guard in post-Katrina New Orleans. Equally charmed are the lives of two gay paramedics from Los Angeles who happen to be vacationing in the Big Easy when the hurricane hits in “High Water.” In “Toccata and Fugue in D Minor,” three Southern ladies (former sorority sisters) on their way to a vacation in Italy are delayed at Heathrow Airport during a bomb scare and share life stories with others stuck over free drinks and hors d’oeuvres in the first-class lounge—the sense of privilege, taken for granted by the author, may grate on readers. Rhoda Manning, a character from Gilchrist’s previous fiction, reappears in “The Dogs” to stir up her neighbors against uppity new move-ins with misbehaving mutts. The volume’s first hint of diversity appears in the final story, about a black child saved by kindly white plantation owners in 1901.