Canadian writer Alice Munro's masterful 10th collection of stories, Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage, proves again that she is a writer to cherish.
Over the years since her first collection, Dance of the Happy Shades, was published in 1968, the sheer spaciousness of Munro's storytelling, her gift for surprising us with the truth about ourselves, has transcended national boundaries and the limits of regionalism. Which is why we have come to embrace her as a major author writing in English on the strength of her short fiction.
Los Angeles Times
A writer of Munro's ilk hardly needs a hook like the intriguing title of her 10th collection to pull readers into her orbit. Serving as a teasing introduction to these nine brilliantly executed tales, the range of mentioned relationships merely suggests a few of the nuances of human behavior that Munro evokes with the skill of a psychological magician. Johanna Parry, the protagonist of the title story, stands alone among her fictional sisters in achieving her goal by force of will. A rough, uneducated country girl, blatantly plain ("her teeth were crowded into the front of her mouth as if they were ready for an argument"), she seems doomed to heartbreak because of a teenager's trick, but the bracingly ironic denouement turns the reader's dire expectations into glee. The women in the other stories generally cannot control their fate. Having finally been reunited with the soul mate of her youth, the narrator of "Nettles" discovers that apparently benevolent fate can be cruel. In a similar moment of perception that signals the end of hope, Lorna in "Post and Beam" realizes that she is condemned to a life of submission to her overbearing, supercilious husband; ironically, her frowsy country cousin envies Lorna's luck in escaping their common origin. In nearly every story, there's a contrast between the behavior and expectations of country people and those who have made it to Toronto or Vancouver. Regardless of situation, however, the basics of survival are endured in stoic sorrow. Only the institutionalized wife of a philanderer in "The Bear Came Over the Mountain" manages to outwit her husband, and she has to lose her sanity to do it. All of the stories share Munro's characteristic style,looping gracefully from the present to the past, interpolating vignettes that seem extraneous and bringing the strands together in a deceptively gentle windup whose impact takes the breath away. Munro has few peers in her understanding of the bargains women make with life and the measureless price they pay. (Nov.) Forecast: Munro's collections are true modern classics, as the 75,000 first printing of her latest attests. Expect vigorous sales. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Each of these nine stories is at once poignant, harsh, funny, melancholy, ironic, and dramatic, descriptions that in the end fall short of bringing their true flavor home. Munro is a lion of Canadian literature, often setting her tales in Ontario and British Columbia, where she lives, but the themes are universal and the characters Everyperson. The Bohemian aunt, the suicide with ALS, the terminally ill woman who is not so sure a new and hopeful diagnosis is welcome, the adulterer, the abandoned lover, the infatuated, the lonely, the bewildered, the old and young, all find a place in these complex works. The program is very well read by Kymberly Dakin in the perfect light and somewhat wistful voice. More of a break between stories would be helpful perhaps even the usually irritating musical interlude. Munro should be represented in all but the most superficial collections, and this audiobook would be an excellent addition to any library. Harriet Edwards, East Meadow P.L., NY Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Its dreadful title is just about the only thing wrong with this stunning tenth collection from Canada's matchless chronicler of women's external fates, inner lives, and painful journeys toward and away from self-understanding (The Love of a Good Woman, 1998, etc.). Munro's nine tales are set mostly in her native Ontario or in western Canada (often Vancouver island), and realized with steely precise statement and in meticulously deployed specific local detail. Their scrupulously seen protagonists include a young wife who'll keep forever the clandestine glimpse of "another sort of life she could have had," caught during her one brief extramarital adventure ("What is Remembered"); a cancer victim impulsively seizing a moment of romantic escape from her distracted husband's inconsistent devotion ("Floating bridge"); and a woman writer who eventually realizes (in "Family Furnishings") how she has used the image of her "fervent and dashing," simultaneously ridiculous and stoical, unmarried aunt to avoid confronting her own fears and failings. The fusion of memory with present experience is accomplished with impressive subtlety in "Queenie" (previously published by itself in chapbook form), the tale of a rootless girl who creates a consoling fantasy about her "wild" stepsister's seemingly comfortable marriage, and also in "Comfort," a piece that artfully discloses the strategies by which a submissive faculty wife has adjusted to her volatile husband's scorn for "sentimentality." We work our way slowly into these multileveled stories, gradually learning how the minutiae of their characters' past experiences and unlived dreams have shaped such developments as a lonely housekeeper's grittyvictory over a heartless prank that might have destroyed her (in the fine title story), or a faithless husband's chastened adaptation to the happiness his wife finds in a nursing home ("The Bear Came Over the Mountain"). Or, in the unforgettable "Nettles," a middle-aged woman's bittersweet chance meeting with the man who was the love of her childhood-a "Love [she now knows] that was not usable, that knew its place." Rich, mature, authoritative stories veined with respectful attention to the complexity and singularity of vagrant, cluttered and compromised lives. First printing of 75,000
Surely Munro’s best yet.” –The New York Times Book Review
“She is the living writer most likely to be read in a hundred years.” –Mona Simpson, The Atlantic Monthly
“One of the foremost practitioners of the art of the short story. . . . These tales have the intimacy of a family photo album and the organic feel of real life.” –The New York Times
“A writer to cherish. . . . The sheer spaciousness of Munro’s storytelling, her gift for surprising us with the truth about ourselves, has transcended national boundaries.” –Los Angeles Times Book Review
“In Munro’s hands, as in Chekhov’s, a short story is more than big enough to hold the world–and to astonish us, again and again.” —Chicago Tribune
Praise from fellow writers:
“Her work felt revolutionary when I came to it, and it still does.” —Jhumpa Lahiri
“She is one of the handful of writers, some living, most dead, whom I have in mind when I say that fiction is my religion.” —Jonthan Franzen
“The authority she brings to the page is just lovely.” —Elizabeth Strout
“She’s the most savage writer I’ve ever read, also the most tender, the most honest, the most perceptive.” —Jeffery Eugenides
“Alice Munro can move characters through time in a way that no other writer can.”—Julian Barnes
“She is a short-story writer who…reimagined what a story can do.” —Loorie Moore
“There’s probably no one alive who’s better at the craft of the short story.” —Jim Shepard
“A true master of the form.” —Salman Rushdie
“A wonderful writer.” —Joyce Carol Oates