All of these eight wonderful stories are about what people will do for love, and the unexpected routes their passion will force them to take.
An old landlady in Vancouver who alarms the just-married narrator with her prim advice about married life – and “the peculiar threat” of a china cabinet that must be washed once a month – is shown to have conspired when young in a crime of passion. A young mother, at the mercy of the “radiant explosion” that comes when she thinks of her secret life, abandons her baby and four-year old to be with her lover in the story “The Children Stay.” A gruff old country doctor in the 1960s is discovered by his daughter to be helping desperate women, his “special patients.” An impetuous young woman meets a visiting Indian student and conceives on a train from Vancouver to Toronto because of “the fact that you couldn’t get condoms around the Calgary station, not for love or money.” An Ontario farm wife’s affair drives her husband to commit a murder; its discovery, years later, will act as a negotiating point for a new, presumably satisfactory, marriage.
The book is clear-eyed about the imperfections of marriage, the clutter of our emotional lives, and the impermanence of love: “Not that that was the end. For we did make up. But we didn’t forgive each other.” Even the shared memories of earlier times prove to be a minefield, and many of the stories track the changes that time brings over generations to families, lovers, and even to friends who share old, intimate secrets about “the prostration of love.”
As always these stories by Alice Munro are shot through with humour, and are as rich as novels. As always the characters in the stories are easily, sometimes uncomfortably, recognizable as people like us. One quote summarizes the delightful surprises that await the reader: “Did you ever think that people’s lives could be like that and end up like this? Well, they can.”
Alice Munro’s fame abroad is matched by the admiration she enjoys in Canada, where she has won the Governor General’s Award three times. Awards for her past collections include the W.H. Smith Prize in the U.K.; the National Book Circle Critics Award in the U.S.; the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in Short Fiction; the Rea Award for the Short Story; the Giller Prize, the Trillium Prize and the Libris Award. She lives in Ontario and British Columbia.
Superb...Long ago, Virginia Woolf described George Eliot as one of the few writers 'for grown-up people.' The same might today, and with equal justice, be said of Alice Munro.--Michael Gorra, New York Times Book Review
A writer for the ages--Dan Cryer, Newsday
Alice Munro is indisputably a master. Like all great writers, she helps sharpen perception...Her imagination is fearless...A better book of stories can scarcely be imagined.--Greg Varner, Washington Post Book World
A riveting collection...a lovely book. Munro's stories move through the years with a sneaky grace.--Georgia Jones-Davis, San Francisco Chronicle
A triumph...certain to seal her reputation as our contemporary Chekhov--Carol Shields, Mirabella
Superlative...She distills a novel's worth of dramatic events into a story of 20 pages.--Erik Huber, Time OutM
These astonishing stories remind us, yet again, of the literary miracles Alice Munro continues to perform.--Francine Prose, Elle