The Love of a Good Woman

( 2 )

Overview

WINNER OF THE NOBEL PRIZE® IN LITERATURE 2013

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, ...

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Overview

WINNER OF THE NOBEL PRIZE® IN LITERATURE 2013

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 rich layering that gives Alice Munro's work so strong a sense of life is particularly apparent in the title story, in which the death of a local optometrist brings an entire town into focus—from the preadolescent boys who find his body, to the man who probably killed him, to the woman who must decide what to do about what she might know. Large, moving, profound—these are stories that extend the limits of fiction.

Winner of the 1998 National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction
Winner of the 1998 Giller Prize

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
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

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 

New Yorker
Munro's austere and magisterial stories of lust and loss are, if anything, more enigmatic than ever, and yet their opacity occasionally gestures toward something akin to hope.
Jill Ciment
With these eight extraordinary stories, Munro once again demonstrates what fiction — when shaped, burnished, and not held in check — can impart about the secret conspiracies of the heart.
Bookforum
R.Z. Sheppard
It's Munro quality, not quantity, that puts her in the company of today's most accomplished writers of fiction at any length....Munro breaks the silence [with The Love of a Good Woman, but without devaluing the style. Not many writers can pull this off. It takes a balance of compassion and detachment worthy of Minerva, the goddess of wisdom.
Time Magazine
Barbara Croft
Fans...will find familiar rewards...the same rich language, the same casually brilliant insights....These stories are like a flock of birds in flight....amazing....On the surface, they seem almost artless, meandering and random, cluttered with detail. But they haunt you.
The Women's Review of Books
William Stevenson
Munro delivers uncanny insights into relationships and why people often make such unusual choices in life.
Entertainment Weekly
People Magazine
...[J]ewellike stories...
Michael Gorra
...[U]nrivaled clarity and subtlety....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.
The New York Times Book Review
San Francisco Chronicle
. . .[A] riveting collection...a lovely book.
Dan Cryer
A writer for the ages.
Newsday
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Again mining the silences and dark discretions of provincial Canadian life, Munro shines in her ninth collection, peopled with characters whose sin is the original one: to have eaten of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The good woman of the title story — a practical nurse who has already sacrificed her happiness to keep a deathbed promise — must choose whether to believe another moribund patient's confession or to ignore it and seize a second chance at the life she has missed. The drama of deathbed revelation is acted out, again, between a dying man and the woman at his bedside in "Cortes Island," when a stroke victim exposes his deepest secret to his part-time caretaker, in what may be the last act of intimacy left to him, and in the process puts his finger on the fault lines in her marriage. In the extraordinary "Before the Change," a young woman confronts her father with the open secret of his life and reveals the hidden facts of hers; she is unprepared, however, for the final irony of his legacy. The powerful closing story, "My Mother's Dream," is about a secret in the making, showing how a young mother almost kills her baby and how that near fatality, revealed at last to the daughter when she is 50, binds mother and daughter. Compressing the arc of a novella, Munro's long, spare stories — there are eight here — span decades and lay bare not only the strata of the solitary life but also the seamless connections and shared guilt that bind together even the loneliest of individuals.
Library Journal
In the title story, set in the early spring of 1951, three young boys on a lark make a grim discovery — the drowned body of the town optometrist. Their secret knowledge gives them a sense of purpose and self-importance. But this secret pales beside the darker one that emerges late in the story of how the man came to die. In "Before the Change," a woman recovering from the breakup of her engagement to a theology student is filled with conflicting emotions on a visit home with her father, the town abortionist. In the closing story, "My Mother's Dream," the pregnant widow of a World War II pilot is left to cope with his dotty family. In their home on her own with an irritable baby on an impossibly hot, pre-air-conditioning day, she is forced to close all the windows lest the neighbors assume she is an unfit mother. Munro's stories are always afforded the luxury of space and the weight of detail. Like carefully preserved home movies, they capture moments of the past that are at once intensely recognizable and profoundly revealing. These exquisite stories, some never before published, are highly recommended.
— Barbara Love, Kingston Frontenac Public Library , Kingston, Ontario
Carol Shields
A triumph. Certain to seal her reputation as our contemporary Chekhov.
Mirabella
Barbara Croft
Fans...will find familiar rewards...the same rich language, the same casually brilliant insights....These stories are like a flock of birds in flight....amazing....On the surface, they seem almost artless, meandering and random, cluttered with detail. But they haunt you.
The Women's Review of Books
William Stevenson
Munro delivers uncanny insights into relationships and why people often make such unusual choices in life.
Entertainment Weekly
Francine Prose
These astonishing stories remind us, yet again, of the literary miracles Alice Munro continues to perform.
Elle
People Magazine
...[J]ewellike stories...
Greg Varner
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.
Washington Post Book World
San Francisco Chronicle
. . .[A] riveting collection...a lovely book.
Michael Gorra
...[U]nrivaled clarity and subtlety....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.
The New York Times Book Review
Dan Cryer
A writer for the ages.
Newsday
Erik Huber
Superlative. . .She distills a novel's worth of dramatic events into a story of 20 pages.
Time Out
Kirkus Reviews
Munro's ninth book (after her recent triumphs Friend of My Youth and Open Secrets) contains eight long stories that resemble Munro's mature work in their tendency toward leisurely development and complex narrative. As always, their province is both the author's native Ontario and the experiential territory denoted by the title of an earlier volume, Lives of Girls and Women. The inchoate understanding possessed by husbands and wives whose intimacies never fully accommodate their unshared histories, siblings who have inevitably endured (or imagined) imbalance and unfairness, parents and children unhinged by the emotional variations to which their one flesh is susceptible — all are central to these elaborately woven tales of people's disillusioning plunges into the depths of their own and others' lives. But this time around the stories seem overloaded, distended by successive disclosures that move us unconvincingly away from their thematic and structural centers. In 'Save the Reaper,' for instance, essential details about its characters' relationships are withheld for so long that we never empathize sufficiently with the harried, lonely grandmother whose momentary impulsiveness endangers her family and herself. 'My Mother's Dream' reimagines from a daughter's perspective — and in almost ludicrously melodramatic terms — her mother's ordeal among her late husband's controlling family. 'The Children Stay' overemphatically delineates the moral unraveling of an adulterous wife who unwisely makes 'the choice of fantasy.' To be fair, a few of the stories are, even by Munro's high standards, exemplary: notably 'Cortes Island,' in which a bored housewife'svivid imagination may or may not have exaggerated incriminating facts about her odd landlords; and especially the fine title novella, about the death of a small-town optometrist, the extremities to which well-meaning ordinary people are driven, and the burden helplessly shouldered by a 'practical nurse' (there's a lovely irony therein) caught between 'Trying to ease people. Trying to be good' and telling what she wishes not to know. A mixed bag, then, through which we too often sense Munro straining to extend and intensify her stories. The unfortunate result is her weakest book yet.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780375703638
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 10/28/1999
  • Series: Vintage Contemporaries Series
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 102,162
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Alice Munro

Alice Munro grew up in Wingham, Ontario, and attended the University of Western Ontario. She has published thirteen collections of stories as well as a novel, Lives of Girls and Women, and two volumes of Selected Stories. During her distinguished career she has been the recipient of many awards and prizes, including three of Canada’s Governor General’s Literary Awards and two of its Giller Prizes, the Rea Award for the Short Story, the Lannan Literary Award, England’s W. H. Smith Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the Man Booker International Prize. In 2013 she was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Her stories have appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, The Paris Review, Granta, and other publications, and her collections have been translated into thirteen languages. She lives in Clinton, Ontario, near Lake Huron. 

Biography

Even though Alice Munro is known for her love stories, don't mistake her for just another romance writer. Munro never romanticizes love, but rather presents it in all of its frustrating complexity. She does not feel impelled to tack happy endings onto her tales of heartbreak and healing. As a result, Munro's wholly credible love stories have marked her as a true original who spins stories that are as honest as they are dramatic.

Alice Munro got her start in writing as a teenager in Ontario, and published her first story while attending Western Ontario University in 1950. Her first book, a collection of short stories titled Dance of the Happy Shades, would not be published until 1968, but when it arrived, Munro rapidly established herself as a unique voice in contemporary literature. Over the course of fifteen short stories, Munro displayed a firmly focused vision, detailing the loves and life-altering moments of the inhabitants of rural Ontario. Munro takes a gradual, methodical approach to unraveling her stories, often developing a character's perspective through several paragraphs, only to demolish it with a single, biting sentence. Yet she also explores those heartbreaking delusions of her characters with humanity, undercutting the bitterness with genuine compassion.

Munro was instantly recognized for her debut collection of stories, winning the prestigious Governor General's Award in Canada. Monroe would then spend the majority of her career writing short stories rather than novels. "I want to tell a story, in the old-fashioned way -- what happens to somebody -- but I want that 'what happens' to be delivered with quite a bit of interruption, turnarounds, and strangeness," she explained to Random House.com. "I want the reader to feel something is astonishing -- not the 'what happens' but the way everything happens. These long short story fictions do that best, for me." Munro would only write one novel, Lives of Girls and Women, a coming-of-age tale about a young girl named Del Jordan, which is actually structured more like a collection of short stories than a typical novel. Throughout the rest of her work, she would continue to explore themes of love and the way memories shape one's life in short story collections such as Friend of My Youth, Open Secrets, and the award-winning The Love of a Good Woman, and her most recent, Runaway.

Because her stories are so unencumbered by clichés and speak with such clarity and truthfulness, it is often assumed that Munro's work is largely autobiographical. The fact that she chooses to set so many of her tales in her hometown only fuel these assumptions further. However, Munro says that very little of her material is based on her own life, and takes a more creative approach to inventing her finely developed characters. "Suppose you have -- in memory -- a young woman stepping off a train in an outfit so elegant her family is compelled to take her down a peg (as happened to me once)," she explains, "and it somehow becomes a wife who's been recovering from a mental breakdown, met by her husband and his mother and the mother's nurse whom the husband doesn't yet know he's in love with. How did that happen? I don't know."

As Munro grows older, her themes are turning more and more toward illness and death, yet she continues to display a startling vitality and youthfulness in her writing. A writer with a long and celebrated career, Alice Munro's work is just as compelling, honest, and insightful as ever.

Good To Know

Munro dropped out of college in 1951 to marry fellow student James Munro. The couple opened a bookstore in Victoria, had three children, and divorced in 1972. Munro continues to live in Canada with her second husband, geographer Gerald Fremlin.

Munro wrote on a typewriter for a good part of her career, calling herself a "late convert to every technological offering" in a publisher's interview. "I still don't own a microwave oven," she says.

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    1. Hometown:
      Clinton, Ontario, and Comox, British Columbia
    1. Date of Birth:
      July 10, 1931
    2. Place of Birth:
      Wingham, Ontario, Canada
    1. Education:
      University of Western Ontario (no degree)

Read an Excerpt

Kath and Sonje have a place of their own on the beach, behind  some large logs. They have chosen this not only for shelter from the  occasional sharp wind—they've got Kath's baby with them—but  because they want to be out of sight of a group of women who use  the beach every day. They call these women the Monicas.

The Monicas have two or three or four children apiece. They  are all under the leadership of the real Monica, who walked down  the beach and introduced herself when she first spotted Kath and  Sonje and the baby. She invited them to join the gang.

They followed her, lugging the carry-cot between them. What  else could they do? But since then they lurk behind the logs.

The Monicas' encampment is made up of beach umbrellas,  towels, diaper bags, picnic hampers, inflatable rafts and whales,  toys, lotions, extra clothing, sun hats, Thermos bottles of coffee,  paper cups and plates, and Thermos tubs in which they carry  homemade fruit-juice Popsicles.

They are either frankly pregnant or look as if they might  be pregnant, because they have lost their figures. They  trudge down to the water's edge, hollering out the  names of their children who are riding and falling off logs or the  inflatable whales.

"Where's your hat? Where's your ball? You've been on that  thing long enough now, let Sandy have a turn."

Even when they talk to each other their voices have to be raised  high, over the shouts and squalls of their children.

"You can get ground round as cheap as hamburger if you go to  Woodward's."

"I tried zinc ointment but it didn't work."

"Now he's got an abscess in the groin."

"You can't use baking powder, you have to use soda."

These women aren't so much older than Kath and Sonje. But  they've reached a stage in life that Kath and Sonje dread. They turn  the whole beach into a platform. Their burdens, their strung-out  progeny and maternal poundage, their authority, can annihilate the  bright water, the perfect small cove with the red-limbed arbutus  trees, the cedars, growing crookedly out of the high rocks. Kath  feels their threat particularly, since she's a mother now herself.  When she nurses her baby she often reads a book, sometimes  smokes a cigarette, so as not to sink into a sludge of animal  function. And she's nursing so that she can shrink her uterus and  flatten her stomach, not just provide the baby—Noelle—with  precious maternal antibodies.

Kath and Sonje have their own Thermos of coffee and their  extra towels, with which they've rigged up a shelter for Noelle.  They have their cigarettes and their books. Sonje has a book  by Howard Fast. Her husband has told her that if she has to read  fiction that's who she should be reading. Kath is reading the short  stories of Katherine Mansfield and the short stories of D. H. Lawrence.  Sonje has got into the habit of putting down her own book and picking  up whichever book of Kath's that Kath is not reading at the moment.  She limits herself to one story and then goes back to Howard Fast.

When they get hungry one of them makes the trek up a long  flight of wooden steps. Houses ring this cove, up on the rocks  under the pine and cedar trees. They are all former summer  cottages, from the days before the Lions Gate Bridge was built,  when people from Vancouver would come across the water for  their vacations. Some cottages—like Kath's and Sonje's—are still  quite primitive and cheap to rent. Others, like the real Monica's,  are much improved. But nobody intends to stay here; everybody's  planning to move on to a proper house. Except for Sonje and her  husband, whose plans seem more mysterious than anybody else's.

There is an unpaved crescent road serving the houses, and  joined at either end to Marine Drive. The enclosed semicircle is full  of tall trees and an undergrowth of ferns and salmonberry bushes,  and various intersecting paths, by which you can take a shortcut  out to the store on Marine Drive. At the store Kath and Sonje will  buy takeout French fries for lunch. More often it's Kath who  makes this expedition, because it's a treat for her to walk under the  trees—something she can't do anymore with the baby carriage.  When she first came here to live, before Noelle was born, she  would cut through the trees nearly every day, never thinking of her  freedom. One day she met Sonje. They had both worked at the  Vancouver Public Library a little while before this, though they had  not been in the same department and had never talked to each  other. Kath had quit in the sixth month of pregnancy as you were  required to do, lest the sight of you should disturb the patrons, and  Sonje had quit because of a scandal.

Or, at least, because of a story that had got into the newspapers.  Her husband, Cottar, who was a journalist working for a magazine  that Kath had never heard of, had made a trip to Red China.  He was referred to in the paper as a left-wing writer. Sonje's picture  appeared beside his, along with the information that she worked in the library. There was concern that in her job she might be promoting  Communist books and influencing children who used the library, so  that they might become Communists. Nobody said that she had done  this—just that it was a danger. Nor was it against the law for somebody  from Canada to visit China. But it turned out that Cottar and Sonje were  both Americans, which made their behavior more alarming, perhaps  more purposeful.

"I know that girl," Kath had said to her husband, Kent, when  she saw Sonje's picture. "At least I know her to see her. She  always seems kind of shy. She'll be embarrassed about this."

"No she won't," said Kent. "Those types love to feel  persecuted, it's what they live for."

The head librarian was reported as saying that Sonje had  nothing to do with choosing books or influencing young  people—she spent most of her time typing out lists.

"Which was funny," Sonje said to Kath, after they had  recognized each other, and spoken and spent about half an hour  talking on the path. The funny thing was that she did not know how  to type.

She wasn't fired, but she had quit anyway. She thought she  might as well, because she and Cottar had some changes  coming up in their future.

Kath wondered if one change might be a baby. It seemed to her  that life went on, after you finished school, as a series of further  examinations to be passed. The first one was getting married. If  you hadn't done that by the time you were twenty-five, that  examination had to all intents and purposes been failed. (She  always signed her name "Mrs. Kent Mayberry" with a sense of  relief and mild elation.) Then you thought about having the first  baby. Waiting a year before you got pregnant was a good idea.  Waiting two years was a little more prudent than necessary. And  three years started people wondering. Then down the road  somewhere was the second baby. After that the progression got  dimmer and it was hard to be sure just when you had arrived at  wherever it was you were going.

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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Table of Contents

The Love of a Good Woman 3
Jakarta 79
Cortes Island 117
Save the Reaper 146
The Children Stay 181
Rich As Stink 215
Before the Change 254
My Mother's Dream 293
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Reading Group Guide

1. In the first story, "The Love of a Good Woman," how has the town of Jutland, its way of life and its mores, affected Enid's character and desires and helped to mold her into the person she is? What does she want from life and what compromises has she made? Does she believe Mrs. Quinn's tale of murder? If so, does it make Rupert more, or less, attractive to her? What exactly does she want from Rupert?

2. What does the author accomplish by dividing "Jakarta" into two parts—the distant past and the present? In what essential way do the two marriages (Kath and Kent; Sonje and Cottar) differ? How are Kath's and Sonje's different attitudes to marriage borne out in the subsequent courses of their lives? Might Sonje's conviction that Cottar is still alive be true, or is it merely an attempt to hold on to a remnant of her former happiness?

3. In "Cortes Island," why did the narrator and her husband decide to marry, and how does the marriage evolve? Does the author imply that the same evolution occurs in many, or most, marriages? What sort of reflection do the Gorries and their rather grotesque marriage and menage cast upon that of their young lodgers? Why does Mr. Gorrie want the narrator to know about his past? Why is Mr. Gorrie, rather than any other man, featured in the narrator's erotic dreams? How does the narrator's sense of self change over the course of her story?

4. In what ways are Eve and Sophie in "Save the Reaper" similar in character, and in what ways are they different? Would you say that Sophie, either consciously or unconsciously, has modeled her life on her mother's? If so, is the situation changing? Why does Eve, in spite of her obvious fears, give the vagrant girl directions to her house? What might the title of the story (a quotation from Alfred, Lord Tennyson's poem "The Lady of Shallott") signify?

5. How does Pauline, in "The Children Stay," perceive marriage and family life? Does the author imply that the pretenses and the feeling of imprisonment that Pauline experiences are present, to some degree, in every marriage? Is the "bleakness" Pauline senses in herself and her father-in-law due to their situations, or their characters? Pauline says at the end that Jeffrey was not Orphée. Is she being honest? In what ways does "The Children Stay" echo or parallel the story of Orpheus and Eurydice? What role does the idea of fate play for the various characters?

6. How does Karin in "Rich As Stink" perceive the dynamic between Rosemary, Derek and Ann? How closely does her perception correspond with the reality? Would you agree with Karin that Derek has "given up on" both Rosemary and Ann (p. 236)? How much has Rosemary's wealth to do with her acceptance by Derek and Ann? Why doesn't Ann want Derek to see Karin in her wedding dress, and why is Karin determined to wear it to the dinner party? What sort of future do you envision for Rosemary? For Karin?

7. In "Before the Change," what do the narrator's experiences at home with her father tell her about her relationship with Robin, its illusions, and its unhappy end? Robin differentiates "ideas" and "life"; is he being cynical or simply realistic? How are the narrator's beliefs about abortion and parenthood affected by her own mother's death in childbirth, and how are these beliefs modified during the course of the story? How do her ideas about love, too, undergo changes? Might she have made different decisions about her love affair and pregnancy if she had it to do over again?

8. In "My Mother's Dream," what has the dream, described at the beginning of the story, to do with Jill's actual life and experiences? Has she known what it is to "leave" a baby? What relation does Jill's struggle with the baby have to her struggle with George's family and his memory? Would you say that this mother-child struggle is a universal one, extreme though it is in Jill's case?

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 24, 2001

    Occasionally, there's a revelation.

    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.<br><br> 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.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 1, 2013

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