A Dangerous Age: A Novel

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Overview

The winner of the National Book Award returns with a moving story of a family of women drawn together by the trials of the times.

The women in the Hand family are no strangers to either controversy or sadness. Those traits seem, in fact, to be a part of their family’s heritage, one that stretches back through several generations and many wars. A Dangerous Age is a celebration of the strength of these women and of the bonds of blood and shared loss that hold them together. ...

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Overview

The winner of the National Book Award returns with a moving story of a family of women drawn together by the trials of the times.

The women in the Hand family are no strangers to either controversy or sadness. Those traits seem, in fact, to be a part of their family’s heritage, one that stretches back through several generations and many wars. A Dangerous Age is a celebration of the strength of these women and of the bonds of blood and shared loss that hold them together. Louise, Winifred, and Olivia are reconnecting the pieces of their lives and rediscovering love, but each is unwittingly on a collision course with a seemingly distant war that is really never more than a breath away. By turns humorous and heartbreaking, this finely honed novel about the centuries-old struggle for women who are left to carry on with life when their men go off to war is by a writer the Washington Post says “should be declared a national cultural treasure.”

“Gilchrist rides the tension—between seeing events and motivations clearly and becoming clouded by personal and material concerns—on a perfect edge . . . [She] raises a multitude of issues in her novel . . . but the overriding questions here are about this war . . . about our motivations, our best interests, our moral and spiritual obligations.” —The Boston Globe

“Ellen Gilchrist has helped define Southern writing . . . [She] has shown herself especially skilled at capturing the texture of women’s lives, and this novel is no different . . . A Dangerous Age brings into stark relief some of the difficulties facing the United States, and does it with Gilchrist’s effective forthrightness.” —Chicago Tribune

“Gilchrist can create wonderful female characters, contemporary women who come alive on the page and linger long after the book is over.” —The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“The writing is polished; all her details matter.” —The Seattle Times

“[Gilchrist] gives this novel a humanity easily embraced by the reader. [Her] trademark supple prose and droll sense of humor are on full display.” —Booklist, starred review

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Editorial Reviews

Reviews

“Ellen Gilchrist is a wonderful writer, with a winning grace and humaneness . . . Moving and tender and tough and unsentimental at the same time.” —Chicago Tribune

“Gilchrist rides the tension--between seeing events and motivations clearly and becoming clouded by personal and material concerns--on a perfect edge.” The Boston Globe

“Aims to show readers that Americans have a resilience that won’t allow us to simply sulk and blame . . . The writing is polished; all her details matter.” The Seattle Times

“Gilchrist can create wonderful female characters, contemporary women who come alive on the page and linger long after the book is over.” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“[Her] fiction never fails to inspire with its feisty spirit and enduring hopefulness.” The New Orleans Times-Picayune

“[Gilchrist] gives this novel a humanity easily embraced by the reader. [Her] trademark supple prose and droll sense of humor are on full display.” Booklist, starred review

“Narrated in the author's characteristically fine prose and populated by . . . sympathetic and believable characters. Recommended.” —Library Journal

Booklist
Gilchrist "gives this novel a humanity easily embraced by the reader. [Her] trademark supple prose and droll sense of humor are on full display."—Booklist, starred review
Publishers Weekly

In the latest from Gilchrist-who won the National Book Award for the 1984 story collection Victory over Japan-the grand Raleigh, N.C., wedding between Winifred "Winnie" Hand Abadie and Charles Kane is canceled when Charles perishes in the World Trade Center attacks. Winnie becomes despondent, and well-intentioned cousin Louise Hand Healy, a producer of TV documentaries, goads her to move in with her in Washington, D.C. Another cousin, Olivia Hand, is deeply committed to her job as editor of a Tulsa, Okla., newspaper and is torn between two men she loves. Gilchrist shifts uneasily among the three women's perspectives, and between the first and third person. The political commitment underscoring the novel, particularly in Olivia's scathing antiwar editorials, is deeply felt, and a nice twist is introduced when, on September 12, Charles's twin cousins, Carl and Brian, join the Marines. Gilchrist never quite brings the three female leads into narrative harmony, but she makes the age's dangers palpable. (May)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

Gilchrist here returns to the wealthy Hands of North Carolina, introduced in The Anna Papersand I Cannot Get You Close Enough. As they approach middle age, the youngish members of the clan are forced to confront national catastrophe, starting when Winifred Hand's fiancé, Charles, dies in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Heartbreak and grief bring on extreme expressions of patriotism and controversial life changes, as when two Hand women become lovers of Charles's much younger twin cousins, both marines, after one of the men is wounded badly in Iraq. The main emphasis is on the fortunes of half-Cherokee Olivia de Havilland Hand, now a successful (and pregnant) Tulsa, OK, newspaper editor, who struggles with inner conflicts as her new reservist husband, the love of her life, leaves for active duty. Quirky relatives from all sides of the extended family do their best to help in 17 tragicomic chapters narrated in the author's characteristically fine prose and populated by flawed but sympathetic and believable characters. Recommended.
—Starr E. Smith

Kirkus Reviews
More angst and sex among the intricately interconnected Southern families Gilchrist (Nora Jane, 2005, etc.) has been following in fiction for nearly 30 years. This time the focus is on 30-something cousins Winifred Hand Abadie, Louise Hand Healy and Olivia Hand. Three months before Winifred was to be married, her fiance "perished on September 11, 2001, along with three thousand other perfectly lovely, helpless human beings." (Gilchrist's fondness for superlative-laden prose remains unchanged.) Louise, a TV documentary writer/producer, falls into bed and marriage with the dead fiance's 24-year-old cousin Carl, 12 years her junior. Carl is home visiting twin brother and fellow marine Brian, who got his chin blown off in Afghanistan. The twins enlisted after their cousin was killed; they and most of the other characters unhesitatingly support the notion that the U.S. campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq are justified responses to the 9/11 attacks. In short order, Louise is pregnant and Winifred has taken up with Brian, then the scene shifts to Oklahoma. Olivia is the editor of the Tulsa World, whose publisher allows her to write cozily first-person editorials. She gets back together with ex-husband Bobby, and pretty soon she's pregnant too. They're married again, and Bobby's reserve unit is called to active duty. Louise and Winifred basically drop out of the picture, except as part of the Greek chorus of extended family that comments on the action in every Gilchrist novel. With all three women married to Marines, the book is understandably concerned with war, and the author seems to intend a political point of some sort. Whatever she's trying to say, however, gets lost in her characters'ludicrously shallow political conversations, and in a narrative so casually developed that readers may wonder whether Gilchrist ever bothers to reread, let alone revise. Trivial treatment of a big subject: The author seems to be coasting on her fans' memories and good wishes.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781616203795
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
  • Publication date: 4/8/2014
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 598,041
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.25 (h) x 0.75 (d)

Meet the Author

Ellen Gilchrist, winner of the National Book Award for Victory Over Japan, is the author of more than twenty books, including novels, short stories, poetry, and a memoir. She lives in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 2.5
( 3 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 15, 2008

    My least favorite novel of Ellen Gilchrist

    I've read all of the Hand family novels and stories, and this book was a crushing disappointment. At the end of 'Starcarbon', Helen and Mike had just gotten married and were expecting their first baby, Jessie and King had an infant son and she had just had a miscarriage, and Olivia and Bobby had gotten engaged and were heading to Montana to educate themselves while they learned more about training horses. 'A Dangerous Age' could have taken up where 'Starcarbon' left off and filled readers in on the lives of the characters. Instead, this book is a one-sided diatribe about the war in Iraq, with erratic snapshots of Bobby and Olivia and her cousins, whom had not been mentioned in great detail in previous works. The Hand cousins make appearances early on in the book, but they and their stories completely fall by the wayside as the author shifts focus to Bobby and Olivia, then the book abruptly ends with an essay that Olivia wrote about her perspective on the war in Iraq. I was sick with disappointment over this book and wish I'd not read it it would have been more pleasurable to me as a reader to form my own thoughts about what happened to the characters vs. reading an auhtor's rant about the Iraqi war. I have been an avid Ellen Gilchrist fan for many years but sadly, I no longer feel compelled to read her novels this novel appears to be platform to voice an opinion on the war that, frankly, didn't ring true from her character's perspectives.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 9, 2012

    Dangerous?

    I've been following the exploits of the Hands and the Mannings for over 30 years. The present generation is way too health-conscious and independent of addictions, which may explain the pedestrian tone of much of this book as compared to Ellen Gilchrist's previous work. I wonder whether she deliberately used the war as a subversive device, similar to her depiction of race relations in the families' past generations. Both tend to evoke discomfort and to question complacency. -- catwak

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 16, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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