‘The Woman in the Rose-Colored Dress’ by Gina Berriault

I’d never heard of Gina Berriault until another writer I met at a residency recommended her to me. I think she’s one of those people who gets branded a “writer’s writer,” whatever that means—any lover of short stories should read her, whether they’re a writer or not. The sheer range of her collection, Women in Their Beds, is astounding. It seems there is no perspective she cannot enter truthfully. It’s difficult to select just one story from this book to highlight here, but The Woman in the Rose-Colored Dress particularly speaks to me for its narrator, a girl on the precipice of adolescence, and her unusual reaction to discovering a misdeed of her father’s. His violation of her family’s trust, and of what she has understood until now to be the rules governing the adult realm, does not send her, as one might expect, into despair or horror. Instead, she sees his secret as a kind of thrilling permission to embark on her own “untellable experiences.” She reflects that in revealing himself, “it was as if he gave me carte blanche to the world.” 

From Women in their Beds, Counterpoint, 1996. Available to read on Narrative