When is a short story not a short story? I've been a big fan of Ellen Ghilchrist's writing for several years and decided to read one of her short stories today as a change of pace from the string of Joyce Carol Oates stories I've been featuring...and I absolutely love the cover of The Courts of Love, so that book was an easy choice from which to choose a story. But after reading "Perhaps a Miracle" I discovered that the first 180 pages of the book are an assortment of stories featuring Nora Jane Whittington, former hippie, mother of twins, who is now returning to college.
It's not so much that the first nine stories are about one person that makes me wonder what to call this one. It's that these nine seem to be in chronological order and that, taken together, they tell one story. Does that make these stories into nine chapters of a novella? Did I read a short story this afternoon or chapter one of a book? All that aside, this is a good story and it does make me want to read more of the stories to see what will happen next, so Ms. Gilchrist was successful whatever the format this should be called.
"Perhaps a Miracle" is the story of a very much in love couple, parents of ten-year-old twin girls and doing quite well for themselves. But things do tend to get complicated don't they? One evening, sensing that something is desperately wrong, Nora Jean rushes naked to the family swimming pool just in time to keep a small neighbor boy from drowning. What Nora Jean doesn't know about her neighbor, the little boy's grandmother, promises to complicate her life in a way she can't even begin to imagine: the boy's mother is living with a former lover of Nora Jean's, a man who fathered one of the twins. I'll bite...can't wait to hear the conversation between Nora Jean's husband (who has already conceded to himself that he might not be the father of the girls) and the ex-lover when/if they come face-to-face after more than ten years of not having seen each other. There's a novel in there for sure.