The Love of a Good Womanby Alice Munro
In eight new stories, a master of the form extends and magnifies her great themes - the vagaries of love, the passion that leads down unexpected paths, the chaos hovering just under the surface of things, and the strange, often comical desires of the human heart. Time stretches out in some of the stories: a man and a woman look back forty years to the summer they met … See more details below
In eight new stories, a master of the form extends and magnifies her great themes - the vagaries of love, the passion that leads down unexpected paths, the chaos hovering just under the surface of things, and the strange, often comical desires of the human heart. Time stretches out in some of the stories: a man and a woman look back forty years to the summer they met - the summer, as it turns out, that the true nature of their lives was revealed. In others time is telescoped: a young girl finds in the course of an evening that the mother she adores, and whose fluttery sexuality she hopes to emulate, will not sustain her - she must count on herself. Some choices are made - in a will, in a decision to leave home - with irrevocable and surprising consequences. At other times disaster is courted or barely skirted; when a mother has a startling dream about her baby; when a woman, driving her grandchildren to visit the lakeside haunts of her youth, starts a game that could have dangerous consequences.
The Women's Review of Books
The New York Times Book Review
Barbara Love, Kingston Frontenac Public Library , Kingston, Ontario
Washington Post Book World
The New York Times Book Review
A writer for the agesDan 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 ChekhovCarol 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
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
Read an Excerpt
Sonje was not the sort of friend who would tell you that she was trying to have a baby and how long she'd been trying and what techniques she was using. She never talked about sex in that way, or about her periods or any behavior of her body--though she soon told Kath things that most people would consider much more shocking. She had a graceful dignity--she had wanted to be a ballet dancer until she got too tall, and she didn't stop regretting that until she met Cottar, who said, "Oh, another little bourgeois girl hoping she'll turn into a dying swan." Her face was broad, calm, pink skinned--she never wore any makeup, Cottar was against makeup--and her thick fair hair was pinned up in a bushy chignon. Kath thought she was wonderful looking--both seraphic and intelligent.
Eating their French fries on the beach, Kath and Sonje discuss characters in the stories they've been reading. How is it that no woman could love Stanley Burnell? What is it about Stanley? He is such a boy, with his pushy love, his greed at the table, his self-satisfaction. Whereas Jonathan Trout--oh, Stanley's wife, Linda, should have married Jonathan Trout, Jonathan who glided through the water while Stanley splashed and snorted. "Greetings, my celestial peach blossom," says Jonathan in his velvety bass voice. He is full of irony, he is subtle and weary. "The shortness of life, the shortness of life," he says. And Stanley's brash world crumbles, discredited.
Something bothers Kath. She can't mention it or think about it. Is Kent something like Stanley?
One day they have an argument. Kath and Sonje have an unexpected and disturbing argument about a story by D. H. Lawrence. The story is called"The Fox."
At the end of that story the lovers--a soldier and a woman named March--are sitting on the sea cliffs looking out on the Atlantic, towards their future home in Canada. They are going to leave England, to start a new life. They are committed to each other, but they are not truly happy. Not yet.
The soldier knows that they will not be truly happy until the woman gives her life over to him, in a way that she has not done so far. March is still struggling against him, to hold herself separate from him, she is making them both obscurely miserable by her efforts to hang on to her woman's soul, her woman's mind. She must stop this--she must stop thinking and stop wanting and let her consciousness go under, until it is submerged in his. Like the reeds that wave below the surface of the water. Look down, look down--see how the reeds wave in the water, they are alive but they never break the surface. And that is how her female nature must live within his male nature. Then she will be happy and he will be strong and content. Then they will have achieved a true marriage.
Kath says that she thinks this is stupid.
She begins to make her case. "He's talking about sex, right?"
"Not just," says Sonje. "About their whole life."
"Yes, but sex. Sex leads to getting pregnant. I mean in the normal course of events. So March has a baby. She probably has more than one. And she has to look after them. How can you do that if your mind is waving around under the surface of the sea?"
"That's taking it very literally," says Sonje in a slightly superior tone.
"You can either have thoughts and make decisions or you can't," says Kath. "For instance--the baby is going to pick up a razor blade. What do you do? Do you just say, Oh, I think I'll just float around here till my husband comes home and he can make up his mind, that is our mind, about whether this is a good idea?"
Sonje said, "That's taking it to extremes."
Each of their voices has hardened. Kath is brisk and scornful, Sonje grave and stubborn.
"Lawrence didn't want to have children," Kath says. "He was jealous of the ones Frieda had from being married before."
Sonje is looking down between her knees, letting sand fall through her fingers. "I just think it would be beautiful," she says. "I think it would be beautiful, if a woman could."
Kath knows that something has gone wrong. Something is wrong with her own argument. Why is she so angry and excited? And why did she shift over to talking about babies, about children? Because she has a baby and Sonje doesn't? Did she say that about Lawrence and Frieda because she suspects that it is partly the same story with Cottar and Sonje?
When you make the argument on the basis of the children, about the woman having to look after the children, you're in the clear. You can't be blamed. But when Kath does that she is covering up. She can't stand that part about the reeds and the water, she feels bloated and suffocated with incoherent protest. So it is herself she is thinking of, not of any children. She herself is the very woman that Lawrence is railing about. And she can't reveal that straight out because it might make Sonje suspect--it might make Kath herself suspect--an impoverishment in Kath's life.
Sonje who has said, during another alarming conversation, "My happiness depends on Cottar."
My happiness depends on Cottar.
That statement shook Kath. She would never have said it about Kent. She didn't want it to be true of herself.
But she didn't want Sonje to think that she was a woman who had missed out on love. Who had not considered, who had not been offered, the prostration of love.
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Interviewed in The New York Times, November 30, 1998
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Each story is a maze of a woman¿s imperfect relationships: wife, friend, parent, child, in-law, grandparent, care-taker. They all point to Munro¿s definition of what it means to be female: a survivor.
Vivid settings and people over generations provide the satisfying click of recognition, but occasionally the click is a peal of revelation. In ¿Rich as Stink¿, how does an eleven-year old girl navigate complicated family relationships that come out of divorce? Step-moms, mom¿s boyfriend, mom¿s boyfriend¿s wife? Is she sullen, rebellious, obnoxious, withdrawn? Karin becomes a very careful observer of the nuances of adult behavior. She uses humor to deflect, distract, and engage the adults in her life, desperately hoping to maintain the ones she values and to hide the harm they have done. Karin is her mother¿s protector, in the end sacrificing herself to save her mom. After the final disappointment, young girls learn not to depend on anyone else. Even if you're not a fan of short stories, Munro is worth it.
What can I say? Every story of Munro's is a delectable morsel, and this collection is no exception. Half of me wants to devour the stories; the other half knows that I must make them last. Munro's relationships are our reslationships. Her stories are our stories; her characters are us.