There is very little difference in style or substance in Gilchrist's two volumes of short stories. She uses the same characters and settings recurrently in both books. Many of the stories, like those in Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio (1919), are at least marginally interrelated.
Gilchrist writes convincingly of young or middle-aged women who struggle to find their identity. Sexual or romantic affairs, pregnancy, marriage, divorce, and child rearing all play important roles in her fiction. Rarely do these short stories portray a conventional, happy relationship between men and women. Tolstoy's first line in Anna Karenina (1875-1877), "All happy families resemble one another, each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way," is especially appropriate to In the Land of Dreamy Dreams and Victory Over Japan. Gilchrist skillfully develops credible relationships between women much more often than between men and women.
The family, however, remains the most important structure in the lives of many of her characters. Her women often feel a spiritual as well as biological kinship with their ancestors, usually reaching beyond parents to grandparents and distant relatives.
These stories frequently offer a tension between the feelings of rootlessness and freedom on the one hand and security and tedium on the other. Gilchrist's characters, endowed with lively imaginations and romantic impulses, are typically frustrated and disillusioned by unimaginative and unromantic situations.
As the title of her first collection of stories suggests, dreams figure prominently in Gilchrist's fiction. Like ancestral roots, dreams connect characters and events in a subconscious, figurative way. All of Gilchrist's fiction appears to have a strong autobiographical element.