What I’m Reading Now – Alice Munro’s Short Stories
As the lives meander by – in different times and with varied circumstances – the short stories in Alice Munro’s Dear Life collection each has a piece that connects – with a line that resonates, a character with issues close to home. Within fourteen different tales, Munro offers some history but more reflection on how individuals cope, survive, hope, dream, find happiness. At least one will find you – maybe at different times in your life experiences – a decision that altered circumstances, an opportunity ignored, a fateful encounter.
In “Haven,” a 13-year-old girl living with her aunt and uncle while her parents are in Africa, finds her surroundings stifling…
“All this happened in the seventies, though in that town and other small towns like it, the seventies were not as we picture them now. . . . there didn’t seem to be an unusual amount of liberation or defiance in the air.”
But the story, like many of them, ends with a surprise.
“People were always saying that this town was like a funeral but in fact when there was a real funeral it put on its best show of liveliness.”
In “Train,” a man returning from war jumps off the train before his stop – ignoring the fiancée waiting for him and building a new life where he lands – before he deserts and starts again and again. His backstory is the clue. In “Night,” sibling rivalry gets a new twist. Some characters have physical disabilities, others emotional, but one recurring theme is the unreliability of memory – the self-lies that change the past to fit the present – creating fiction from the past.
The last four stories are meant to be somewhat autobiographical, and as I approach reading them, I look forward to the personal revelations from this 81-year-old Canadian storyteller – with the caution that not everything remembered is as it was.