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Friend of My Youth: Stories
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27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on March 26, 1998
I loved this book so much I decided to write my Master's Thesis in Literature on it; we've all got parents, friends, or someone we know that turn up in every one of these stories. Munro's insights into how humans deal with relationships, death, and collective community social consciousness are continually profound and eye-opening. Pay special attention to things "Gothic" in this collection as in Open Secrets: repressed sexuality, pleasurable dread, anxiety, remorse, unnatural silences....the list goes on and on. No-one better captures the paradox of connected everyday surfaces and hidden, underground nightmares than Munro.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on July 4, 1998
Reading stories such as "Differently," about a woman's reminiscences and regret about the people of her past made me reflect that life turns out differently than our original aspirations. It isn't always regret, but it is rarely indifferent. As soon as I finished a story, I immediately wanted to reread it, and understand the character better. These are beautiful, gentle stories about lives that sometimes meander, sometimes change abruptly, but that are always determined by the choices and accidents of living. Munro's love, sometimes curiosity, for her characters is a privilege to experience.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on March 8, 1997
With this collection of stories, Munro secured her place as one of the best short fiction writers of our time. These are thick, meaty pieces, inhabited by characters as
real as any that walk on land, as multifaceted and confused as you or I. Munro's shocking control of the English language and profound understanding of human
nature make these ten stories among the most important of the twentieth century.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on October 20, 2006
This is my least favorite of Munro's story-suites, the only one I wouldn't give five stars. Perhaps I'm simply defensive as a male reader, but the men in these stories seem more despicable than most of my friends and I find the women hard to share time with. These stories attend more to Munro's identity as a writer, also, making them annoyingly self-referential and literary. Whatever you do, don't make this collection your first encounter with one of the greatest writers of our lifetimes.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
This is the sixth collection of Munro's short stories that I've read. I've reviewed four collections previously. The others that are reviewed are: Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage: Stories The Beggar Maid: Stories of Flo and Rose Too Much Happiness: Stories and The Progress of Love. Each I've given my own "extra" rating of "six stars." Of the 825 reviews currently posted, I've reached for the extra dimensional star approximately 30 times. And now it will be five times for Munro; the only author for me to go "extra dimensional" more than once. Obviously, I remain...er...ah...deeply infatuated.

How does she do it? I think of fine American writers of the South, like Eudora Welty and Carson McCullers, and she is their equal in terms of their insights into the human condition. The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter brilliantly depicts the quiet sorrows and loneliness of several individuals' lives. Munro is brilliant in this regard also, but what truly sets her apart is the sheer range of her characters, the constant originality of her material, and how she is able to distill the intensity of a novel, such as McCullers' classic, into a mere 25 page short story.

"Friend of My Youth" was first published in 1990, still in the first half of her oeuvre. It is composed of 10 short stories, each roughly 25-pages. The titles are often taken from a key phrase or expression that one of the characters within it uses. And that phrase always seems to be a celebration of Munro's keen ear for dialogue, and how those few words, or just one in the cases of "Differently" and "Wigtime" illuminate a character or an entire incident. Another key, and most enjoyable aspect of her stories is that they can range over several decades: the reader is treated to how a character was as a child, and then how some of those traits reveal themselves in adulthood. Generational interactions are also frequent.

As a sampling of Munro's incredible range, consider the following four stories:

"Hold Me Fast, Don't Let Me Pass" concerns Hazel, who is now the widow of a former World War II bomber pilot, going to Scotland to look up his cousin, whom he stayed with, on leaves, during the war. Among other incidents, she immediately runs into one of his girlfriends from the war, but she refuses to acknowledge any relationship because she has reconstructed an entirely new life whereby she is 10 years younger than she actually is, and therefore it was impossible for her to date him during the war. And we learn what "making a woman happy" is a euphemism for.

"Meneseteung" concerns courtship rituals from the 1850's in Western Ontario, as a small town developed. Will the protagonist, Almeda Roth, a poetess, escape "spinsterhood," by winning the heart" of Jarvis Poulter, a salt mine proprietor. And does she really want to? Concerning Poulter, Munro writes: "A man may keep his house decent, but he will never - If he is a proper man - do much to decorate it. Marriage forces him to live with more ornament as well as sentiment, and it protects him, also, from the extremities of his own nature- from a frigid parsimony or a luxuriant sloth, from squalor, and from excessive sleeping or reading, drinking, smoking, or freethinking."

"Pictures of the Ice" concerns a retiring preacher, recently widowed, who is going off to Hawaii to marry a woman he met at a church conference. It also concerns Karin and Brent, and their hard life, which was resolved when the preacher introduced them to religion. But then Brent, like many a recent convert, becomes more religious than the preacher, and essentially forces him out of the church. But then again, maybe things are not as they seem, on first take, as is so often the case.

"Five Points," ah, another complex tale, centering around an illicit love affair between a married woman, Brenda, whose husband was injured in the salt mine, and a man only a few years younger, but in fact, a whole "generation" younger; the difference between the stay-at-home and get married, late 50's, and the drugs and rock and roll of the early `60's. Always Munro has that knack for the key detail: Brenda wears her high heels for that few moments of a walk between their cars, at their rendezvous point, deep in the woods.

Each story is finely crafted and polished. Munro makes every word count. She has seen so much deeper than most into the pathos that is the daily lives of those around us, if not our own. Unquestionably, another 6-stars.
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10 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on May 21, 2001
I was a bit let down by this compilation. I really enjoyed "The Love of a Good Woman", but the stories in "Friend of my Youth" started to sound a bit repetitious after a while. Of the 10 stories, 7 had a cheating spouse in them. There were some variations on the theme, but in the most common it was the wife who committed adultery, usually resulting in her abandoning her children and moving somewhere else.
This common theme became too hard to bear after a while. After reading the book i felt overexposed to this (seemingly) widespread malaise of society. The writing is fine, and the character development is excellent (i can only imagine how hard it must be to achieve this in a short story), but i wish Alice Munro had explored other human passions and/or vices apart from infidelity.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on March 8, 1997
With this collection of stories, Munro secured her place as one of the best short fiction writers of our time. These are thick, meaty pieces, inhabited by characters as real as any that walk on land, as multifaceted and confused as you or I. Munro's shocking control of the English language and profound understanding of human nature make these ten stories among the most important of the twentieth century
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on November 6, 2008
i bought this book a while ago and sat on my bookshelf, somehow i sort of forgot about it and what the subject was actually i even forgot i had it until one day i just picked it up and started reading it.

Bought it whilst i was still living in Oz. Read it last week, after residing in Portugal for over 1 year... and i am so glad i waited.

It made me miss australia, all the familiar names and tv shows and journalists and lingo...

The book is fabulous, recomend it no worries but i wont bore you with details, they are available just up in the editors area.

Just buy it and read it!
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on July 3, 2014
I read Alice Munro before she became a Nobel Prize and when she got it, I felt that this ultimate recognition of her talents was very much deserved. I am always amazed at her gift to see so deeply into the human soul, to describe feelings and situations with such grace. All my admiration to this writer of awesome stories.
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on March 10, 2014
Each story captures your attention and emotions. There is never a dull moment. I can't wait to read more of her works.
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