Runaway, which just won the Giller Prize, Canada's biggest literary award for fiction, may very well be the synthesizing work of one of literature's keenest investigators into the human soul. It will, in any case, reach far beyond its time.
Nothing is new in Munro's latest collection, which is to say that the author continues to perfect her virtuosic formula in these eight short stories, several of which previously appeared in the New Yorker. While her style typifies the traditionally realistic, often domestic genre of that magazine, Munro's stories are also global, bighearted and warm. In the title story, a housekeeper tries to leave her emotionally abusive husband, entangling her employer in the process. Three interconnected stories-"Chance," "Soon" and "Silence"-follow a schoolteacher as she falls for an older man, returns as a young mother to visit her ailing parents on their farm and much later tries to "rescue" her daughter from a religious cult. In "Tricks," a lonely nurse on a day trip encounters a man from Montenegro and vows to return to his clock shop one year later to resume their affair. In deliberate prose, Munro captures their fleeting moment of passion on a train platform: "This talk felt more and more like an agreed-upon subterfuge, like a conventional screen for what was becoming more inevitable all the time, more necessary, between them." Munro's characters are hopeful and proud as they face both the betrayals and gestures of kindness that animate their relationships. One never knows quite where a Munro story will end, only that it will leave an incandescent trail of psychological insight. Agent, William Morris. 100,000 first printing. (Nov. 14) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Munro's new story collection will delight fans and convert those who have never before read her work. Her spare style belies the psychological depth of the stories, which feature characters running away from someone or something (often representative of the past) or telling a lie by commission or omission (another form of running away). After opening with a vignette, Munro reveals what has led to or what flows from that moment. The protagonists look for, find, and lose love. Three stories trace Juliet's life from meeting her husband to separating from her adult daughter. "Trepasses" has a creepy beginning (Is Delphine really a family member?), which contributes to the impact of the ending. "Powers," a novella in four sections, begins with Nancy's diary, which is as funny as the story "How I Met My Husband." But the tone changes: at the end, an aged Nancy realizes that she cannot, even by psychic power, run away from or remake the past. Recommended for all libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 7/04.] Elaine Bender, El Camino Coll., Torrance, CA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Retrospect and resolution, neither fully comprehended nor ultimately satisfying: such are the territories the masterful Munro explores in her tenth collection. Each of its eight long tales in the Canadian author's latest gathering (after Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage, 2001, etc.) bears a one-word title, and all together embrace a multiplicity of reactions to the facts of aging, changing, remembering, regretting, and confronting one's mortality. Three pieces focus on Juliet Henderson, a student and sometime teacher of classical culture, who waits years (in "Chance") before rediscovering romantic happiness with the middle-aged man with whom she had shared an unusual experience during a long train journey. In "Soon," Juliet and her baby daughter Penelope visit Juliet's aging parents, and she learns how her unconventional life has impacted on theirs. Then, in "Silence," a much older Juliet comes sorrowfully to terms with the emptiness in her that had forever alienated Penelope, "now living the life of a prosperous, practical matron" in a world far from her mother's. Generational and familial incompatibility also figure crucially in "Passion," the story (somewhat initially reminiscent of Forster's Howards End) of a rural girl's transformative relationship with her boyfriend's cultured, "perfect" family-and her realization that their imperfections adumbrate her own compromised future. Further complexities-and borderline believable coincidences and recognitions-make mixed successes of "Trespasses," in which a young girl's unease about her impulsive parents is shown to stem from a secret long kept from her, and "Tricks," an excruciatingly sad account of a lonely girl'shappenstance relationship with the immigrant clockmaker she meets while attending a Shakespeare festival, the promise she tries and helplessly fails to keep, and the damaging misunderstanding that, she ruefully reasons, "Shakespeare should have prepared her." Then there are the masterpieces: the title story's wrenching portrayal of an emotionally abused young wife's inability to leave her laconic husband; and the brilliant novella "Powers," which spans years and lives, a truncated female friendship that might have offered sustenance and salvation, and contains acute, revelatory discriminations between how women and men experience and perceive "reality."In a word: magnificent. First printing of 100,000. Agent: Virginia Barber/William Morris Agency
“Alice Munro has a strong claim to being the best fiction writer now working in North America. Runaway is a marvel.” –Jonathan Franzen, The New York Times Book Review
“Runaway may very well be the synthesizing work of one of literature’s keenest investigators into the human soul.” –USA Today
“She outjoices Joyce and checkmates Chekhov. . . . Each of the stories in Runaway contains enough lived life to fill a typical novel. . . . Her women are heroic. . . . They endure in the mind of the reader.” –The Boston Globe
“As with so many of Munro’s stories, you read to have your premises altered and deepened. Could anything be better? . . . A beautiful new work.” –Los Angeles Times
“The great Alice Munro proves again why short-story writers bow down to her.” –Vanity Fair
“Runaway is a big dish of Beluga caviar, sailing in on a sparkling bed of ice, with a mother-of-pearl spoon. You remember: This is why you eat, read, make love, whatever–to be left silly with admiration and delight.” –The Washington Post
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