Story of the Week: "The Woman in the Rose-Colored Dress" by Gina Berriault



As a writer, one of my goals in life is to write a story that will live on long after I have passed. To my view, stories are like children. You birth them. You raise them. You send them out in the world and pray they will live on after you are forgotten.

Gina Berriault was a writer born to Russian-Jewish immigrants in 1926. During her career she authored four novels, three story collections, and won a number of awards (such as several O. Henry prizes) for her short stories. In 1996 her collection of stories, Women in Their Beds was published and received both the PEN/Faulkner Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award. While there are a number of excellent stories in this collection, one of my favorite is "The Woman in the Rose-Colored Dress".

This story is a small dynamo. Clocking in at 1,180 words, the story has a depth and understanding of life that most novels lack. In addition, the writing is Berriault at her best. For example, early on there is this line: "Whenever I glanced up I met a glance, and nobody spoke jokingly to me the way they do to a child, and when men came up to me they treated me with a kind of knowingness, as if I were already steeped in the experiences I had only imagined." Amazing. Simply amazing.

Berriault's story melds memories of a childhood long past with the narrator's current life. However, we learn none of the specifics of the narrator's current life, instead glimpsing this life by the analysis the narrator gives to her own memories. She simultaneously describes her memories and stands apart from them, seeing herself "as if I were observing another girl from a corner of a room: how she looked in a pale green dress that clung to the small breasts and the rounding hips, not in gathered stuff nor pleats anymore, not in autonomous material, but in the kind that conformed to the young body that was just beginning to make itself known, or its willingness known, or its own will known."

Berriault died in 1999. To me, "The Woman in the Rose-Colored Dress" stands as a story with it's own life, a story destined to live on and on. There is nothing more a writer can ask than to create a story like this.

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Read "The Woman in the Rose-Colored Dress", which is reprinted at Narrative Magazine. I should note that Narratice Magazine requires people to register for their stories, but since this registration is free and the magazine published top-notch fiction, I'd strongly recommend people do so.