Monday, February 8, 2010

Short Story Monday: "Roses, Rhododendron" by Alice Adams

It's probably not the best idea to read a short story while watching the Super Bowl. If I've learned anything at all over the past year, it's that reading short stories requires a heightened sense of awareness and concentration. So much can be conveyed in just a single sentence. A brief lapse in focus and key elements may be missed.

Last week, Margot at Joyfully Retired reviewed "Roses, Rhododendron" by Alice Adams. The story was originally published in The New Yorker in 1976, and can also be found in The Best American Short Stories of the Century. It sounded good, so I began to read:

"One dark and rainy Boston spring of many years ago, I spent all my after-school and evening hours in the living room of our antique-crammed Cedar Street flat, writing down what the Ouija board said to my mother. My father, a spoiled and rowdy Irishman, a sometime engineer, had run off to New Orleans with a girl, and my mother hoped to learn from the board if he would come back."

What the Ouija board told her mother, was to take all the antiques, move down south, and open a store in a nice small town. The narrator goes on:
"That is what we did, and shortly thereafter, for the first time in my life, I fell violently and permanently in love: with a house, with a family of three people, with an area of countryside."

The rest of the story describes her relationship with the family - a relationship that continues even after she moves away. It is beautifully written, and I enjoyed it quite a bit. It's hard to say much more because the details are fuzzy... but so are the details of the big game. Obviously, neither got my full attention. Searching for some sort of summary, I found this sentence:
"Roses, Rhododendron" contrasts the idealized outward appearance of a family with the actual dysfunctional state of their relations."
I suppose that will have to do.
Short Story Monday is hosted by The Book Mine Set.


  1. I'd like to read this story and will
    look for it the next time I'm at the library. Also agree with your initial comments.

  2. I love the way this story starts!! Thanks for the link to the short stories too. I never think to look any of them up!!

  3. It does sound like it had stiff competition for attention! I love that we (the Short Story Monday participants) are trying out one another's recommendations.

  4. Hi there! I have an award for you on my blog - please stop by!

  5. This sounds like a really good story. I'll have to see if my library has the book that it is in.

  6. I loved the beginning.

    I had a hard time concentrating during the game too, but managed to escape upstairs for the second half.

  7. April - Thanks for stopping by! This was a good story, even without my complete attention.

    Staci - I really liked the opening, too. If a story is available on-line, I'll always try to post a link.

    John Mutford - I guess that was the main point I was trying to make... short stories demand my full attention. I've found quite a few good ones from read other participant's posts. Don't know if I've ever really thanked you for hosting, but I do appreciate it.

    Booksnyc - Thank you! I'll be right over...

    Teddy Rose - Hope your library has it. I've found several good stories in it.

    Carolsnotebook - That's what I should have done. I stayed in front of the TV the whole time.


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