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And I would walk along the sleepy, leafed-over streets, on the unpaved sidewalks, past houses that to me were as inviting and as interesting as unread books, and I would try to imagine what went on inside. The families. Their lives.
What a sweet, wonderful, quirky story is Alice Adams’ “Roses, Rhododendron”. It’s theme of childhood friendship puts it firmly in the category of stories that can be called “gems”.
Ten year-old Jane moves with her mother, Margot, from Boston to North Carolina – at the bidding of a Ouija Board. Jane, the narrator, then tells the reader about a house and a family with which she fell “permanently in love” – a house and a family that wasn’t her own.
Neither Jane’s own family nor her newly found friendship family are by any means perfect. I think this gives the story it’s quirkiness. Emily, the mother of the friendship family is just as much Jane’s friend as Emily’s daughter Harriet. But this doesn’t mean Margot and Jane have a bad relationship. It’s just different. Having friendships outside her family doesn’t diminish the relationships within her family.
As often happens, Jane eventually loses touch with Harriet and her family but a poignant ending brings the story full circle.
“Roses, Rhododendron” is included in my copy of The Best American Short Stories of the Century edited by John Updike. I read it when I selected the King of Hearts for Week 22 of my Deal Me In short story project. My Deal Me In list can be seen here. Deal Me In is sponsored by Jay at Bibliophilopolis.