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4 of 5
1 rating
list price: $15.99
also available: Paperback
category: Fiction
published: Mar 2009
imprint: Emblem Editions

Moral Disorder

by Margaret Atwood

reviews: 1
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short stories (single author), literary
4 of 5
1 rating
list price: $15.99
also available: Paperback
category: Fiction
published: Mar 2009
imprint: Emblem Editions

In these ten dazzling interrelated stories Atwood traces the course of a life and also the lives intertwined with it, while evoking the drama and the humour that colour common experiences — the birth of a baby, divorce and remarriage, old age and death. With settings ranging from Toronto, northern Quebec, and rural Ontario, the stories begin in the present, as a couple no longer young situate themselves in a larger world no longer safe. Then the narrative goes back in time to the forties and moves chronologically forward toward the present.

In “The Art of Cooking and Serving,” the twelve-year-old narrator does her best to accommodate the arrival of a baby sister. After she boldly declares her independence, we follow the narrator into young adulthood and then through a complex relationship. In “The Entities,” the story of two women haunted by the past unfolds. The magnificent last two stories reveal the heartbreaking old age of parents but circle back again to childhood, to complete the cycle.

By turns funny, lyrical, incisive, tragic, earthy, shocking, and deeply personal, Moral Disorder displays Atwood’s celebrated storytelling gifts and unmistakable style to their best advantage. This is vintage Atwood, writing at the height of her powers.

About the Author
Margaret Atwood is one of the world's preeminent writers -- winner of the Booker Prize, the Scotiabank Giller Prize, and the Governor General's Literary Award, among many other honours. She is the bestselling author of more than thirty-five books of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, including The Handmaid's Tale, Alias Grace, The Blind Assassin, and Oryx and Crake. She and her spouse, writer Graeme Gibson, are the Joint Honourary Presidents of the Rare Bird Club within Birdlife International. She is an International Vice President of PEN.
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Contributor Notes

Margaret Atwood is the author of more than forty volumes of poetry, children’s literature, fiction, and non-fiction, but is best known for her novels, which include The Edible Woman (1969), The Handmaid’s Tale (1985), The Robber Bride (1994), Alias Grace (1996), and The Blind Assassin, which won the prestigious Booker Prize in 2000. A book of short stories called Stone Mattress: Nine Tales was published in 2014. Her novel, MaddAddam (2013), is the final volume in a three-book series that began with the Man-Booker prize-nominated Oryx and Crake (2003) and continued with The Year of the Flood (2009). The Tent (mini-fictions) and Moral Disorder (short fiction) both appeared in 2006. A volume of poetry, The Door, was published in 2007. In Other Worlds: SF and the Human Imagination, a collection of non-fiction essays appeared in 2011. Her non-fiction book, Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth was adapted for the screen in 2012. Ms. Atwood’s work has been published in more than forty languages, including Farsi, Japanese, Turkish, Finnish, Korean, Icelandic and Estonian.
Margaret Atwood lives in Toronto with writer Graeme Gibson.

Editorial Review


“This snapshot collection is a study of memory, to be cherished not just as an acute portrayal of family life, with all its possibilities and failings, but for revealing a little more of Atwood’s own struggle.” The Times
“Vintage Atwood: slyly operatic, playfully tenebrous and a touch of sanguinary.” Globe and Mail
“Atwood does geography--emotional and physical--better than anyone.... Atwood is in top form as she sketches female guises and disguises: daughter, sister, lover, wife.” Toronto Star
“Atwood travels deep into the expanse of memories and language built up over her writing lifetime and offers a handful of gems to illuminate our times.” Los Angeles Times
“Margaret Atwood has always been an acute observer of women.... Crisp to the senses and compelling.” The Telegraph (UK)

“Atwood is still a master of the compelling, peculiar portrait of human behavior.”  Entertainment Weekly
“Margaret Atwood balances the apparently random--disorderly--events and memories against the sense we all have that a life as a whole has its own shape, possibly a destiny.... This tale, like all these tales, is both grim and delightful, because it is triumphantly understood and excellently written.” A.S. Byatt, Washington Post Book World

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Reader Reviews

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Moral Disorder, by Margaret Atwood

I wasn't sure how I wanted to review this book. Margaret Atwood's Moral Disorder is a collection of intertwined short stories. How connected are these stories? Did I want to comment on each story individually (as I like to do with short stories) or do I want to talk about the book as a whole? I decided that I'd do a combination. I have a few sentences for each story, then I'll comment on the book as a whole, which I have to say, I really enjoyed. So here goes:

The Bad News

The Bad News is the first short story in Moral Disorder. It is told from the perspective of an older woman. She seems to be preoccupied with her end and the end of her husband. She repeats the phrase 'not yet'; the things that are coming for her are not yet there. She is more concerned with her life than the deaths in the news. Aren’t we all? Is that the disorder of our morals?

The Art of Cooking and Serving

It is a story about being stuck and escaping. The main character imagines a different future. There is always a sadness when a child is force to grow up too early.

The Headless Horseman

The Headless Horseman examines siblings/sisterhood over the years. I found it very connected to second story.

My Last Duchess

Move on. Do not be a dumb bunny.

The Other Place (vague spoiler)

I know who the girl is. For some reason, I thought she might be the daughter of the old woman, but I'm coming to recognize her voice. Her past isn't just in the lady; it's leaving clues to the future too.


Monopoly is the first story to feel unresolved and like a middle or explanatory chapter rather than a stand-alone story. It was good though, because we learn more about Nell and how she came to be with Tig. So, I appreciated the explanation, not that it felt like an “explanation,” just a chapter in a novel.

Moral Disorder

This was another story that also had a "middle chapter" feeling. Maybe that's just what happens when you put together intertwined short stories. If I read Moral Disorder or Monopoly alone, out of this context, perhaps my feelings would be different.

White Horse

White Horse gives you the feeling of a separate story again, which is nice. We get a good look at Nell and Lizzie as people, their past, present and future. It gives them more dimension.


Very quick, fast-paced read. I liked that Lillie was the focus. It gave Entities that short story feeling that some of the other stories were missing.

The Labrador Fiasco

The father is Nell’s right? No names are used, so you're left to assume. It gives you the feeling of the book coming to the end, which is appropriate since it's the second last story of the book. It’s very sad, but well crafted and home to some fantastic characters.

Boys at the Lab

On page 205 a comment was made that reminds me of Doctor Who, "bigger on the inside than it was on the outside.” I kind of loved that line. Was that done on purpose? Does Margaret Atwood watch Doctor Who? I hope someone reading this knows what I'm talking about.

Definitely had the feeling of conclusion. I assume that the daughter is Nell, but the main characters are not named. Boys at the Lab is possibly the best story in the entire collection.

The Whole Book

Moral Disorder is a fantastic collection of Atwood tales. I did come away thinking that Moral Disorder is part novel, part short story collection. The stories are more than “intertwined” and exist as individual entities to varying degrees. Some definitely have just the feeling of being able to exist on their own. Other stories feel like chapters, though I think part of that feeling comes from the stories being put together in one volume. Moral Disorder contains some interesting, unique characters. I can't believe I waited so long to read it.

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