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The Love of a Good Woman : Stories Paperback – October 26, 1999


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The Love of a Good Woman : Stories + Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage: Stories + Dear Life: Stories (Vintage International)
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Product Details

  • Series: Vintage Contemporaries
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (October 26, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375703632
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375703638
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.2 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (61 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #20,730 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

In the world of Alice Munro, the best route is not necessarily the shortest distance between two points. In her ninth superlative collection of short fiction, The Love of a Good Woman, the setting is once again western Canada, and the subject matter is classic Munro: secrets, love, betrayal, and the stuff of ordinary lives. But as is usual for this master of the short form, the path she takes is anything but ordinary. The stunning title story is a case in point. A narrative in four parts, it begins with the drowning of a small-town optometrist and ripples outward, touching first the boys who find the body, then a spiteful dying woman and her young practical nurse. Whose tale is this, anyway? Not the optometrist's, surely, though his death holds it together. The effect is not exactly Rashomon-like either, though each of the sections views him through a different eye. Instead, "The Love of a Good Woman" is as thorough and inclusive a portrait of small-town life as can be imagined--its tensions and its deceit, its involuntary bonds. Within its 75 pages it encompasses a world more capacious than that of most novels.

As always, Munro's prose is both simple and moving, as when the letter-writing protagonist of "Before the Change" sends her love to an ex-fiancé:

What if people really did that--sent their love through the mail to get rid of it? What would it be that they sent? A box of chocolates with centers like the yolks of turkey's eggs. A mud doll with hollow eye sockets. A heap of roses slightly more fragrant than rotten. A package wrapped in bloody newspaper that nobody would want to open.
The fictions in this volume burn with a kind of dry-eyed anti-romanticism--even the ones whose plots verge on domestic melodrama (a baby's near-death in "My Mother's Dream"; an adulterous wife in "The Children Stay"). Densely populated, elliptical in construction, each story circles around its principal events and relationships like planets around a sun. The result is layered and complex, its patterns not always apparent on first reading: in other words, something like life. --Mary Park --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers 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. First serial to the New Yorker. (Nov.) FYI: Four of Munro's previous collections are available in Vintage paperback.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

More About the Author

Alice Munro grew up in Wingham, Ontario, and attended the University of Western Ontario. She has published eleven previous books.During her distinguished career she has been the recipient of many awards and prizes, including the W.H. Smith Prize, the National Book Circle Critics Award, the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in Short Fiction, the Lannan Literary Award, the Commonwealth Writers' Prize, and the Rea Award for the Short Story. In Canada, she has won the Governor General's Award, the Giller Prize, the Trillium Book Award, and the Libris Award.Alice Munro and her husband divide their time between Clinton, Ontario, and Comox, British Columbia.

Customer Reviews

She is an amazing writer and a voice of humanity to be admired.
justine
The last story is also stands out, as it is the only one that offers a sense of hope or happiness, which is probably why it was placed at the end of the book.
A. Ross
These short stories are so well written and the characters come to life.
shirley mcleod

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

39 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Manuel Haas on June 10, 2001
Format: Hardcover
We all know that there are quite a lot of people who believe that Alice Munro is one of the greatest short story writers alive, and I could not agree with them more. But let me say what I particularly like about Alice Munro, what distinguishes her from other great writers.
First of all, there is a unique impression of authenticity. There are certain conventions in fiction about what is regarded as important or interesting; Alice Munro ignores them. She knows that tiny incidents can be the defining ones. She knows that spending a weekend with one's own daughter can be an unbearable challange which almost drives you mad. These stories do not gloss over the mundane aspects of life we have to struggle with most.
Second, Alice Munro's stories believe in human dignity and choice. Hers is a moral universe. It's not just the title story which shows us a person making a choice. We tend to just let things happen to us and pretend we cannot do anything about them; these stories show that sometimes we can (but they do not deny that very often we cannot). There is also a great story, "Jakarta", which implies that such choices are not valid forever; it's not enough to decide against betraying your husband today. The decision may feel momentous, but if you decide otherwise tomorrow it doesn't matter all that much. The problem is, however, and the story shows that too, that when you take those decisions you are very often incapable of feeling their impact.
Read these stories! This is a book for grown-ups. It will help you understand the world.
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34 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Nathan Oates on December 7, 1999
Format: Paperback
I have been reading Munro's stories for years and even the profound admiration I had for her work could not prepare me for the force of this collection. It is literally impossible to find a better book. Each one of Munro's stories is worth hundreds of lesser works. The prose is gorgeous, the vision expansive yet percise and humane. Read, "Save the Reaper" last. It is a reworking of American fable and Flannery O'Connor that shows Munro has surpassed even that great American writer.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By justine on February 3, 2000
Format: Paperback
Alice Munro is able to convey in twenty pages more character and depth than many people understand about themselves or their loved ones in a lifetime. She allows us to embrace our flaws and accept them with grace and understanding. She is an amazing writer and a voice of humanity to be admired.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 21, 1999
Format: Hardcover
In the title story of this collection, Enid, the self-sacrificing practical nurse, is transformed into someone else after she has the sickly and evil Mrs. Quinn as a patient before Mrs. Quinn dies. Without warning, Mrs. Quinn confesses conspiring with her husband to conceal a murder.Up to then, Enid thought of Rupert Quinn as a good man and devoted husband. Does "the love of a good woman" have the power of redemption:? Read the story to get Alice Munro's always astonishing perspective on the subject of goodness.
In another fine story from this collection, "Before the Change", a young woman uses an abortion to test her father and her lover and they both come up short.
In "Jakarta", my personal favorite, Sonje is such a good woman that she takes on the care of her lover's blind mother while Cottar continues a traveling, leftist journalist. But Sonje is not a fool though she may be a saint as her old friend Kent discovers.
The collection contains such thought-provoking studies that it could influence the way you live your life.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 8, 2000
Format: Paperback
I loved this book. It really makes you think about the underlying motives and loyalties that exist in people. Alice Munro examines the everyday sort of person who must make certain choices and live with it. In reading this book I found myself asking questions and feeling slightly disturbed by my lack of certainty on many issues this book addresses. I love the way she uses language and her use of detail is superb. It will make you think and wonder and imagine all at the same time. What a wonderful writer she is!
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 31, 1999
Format: Hardcover
First, let me say that I'm a huge fan of Munro. Let me say that "Open Secrets" is THE book (okay, one of the books) I recommend to people for books that I love. And most of her early stuff ain't bad either. Let me say that as a way to lighten my negative opinion about this book. I think this book can be summed up by one of the characters in the first story (I'm paraphrasing) who's thinking about how as she got older she realized that life took more than she had and left her with less. (Something to that effect.) These stories read as if this were Munro's problem too, as if she's given her best and now she's still got to give more and she's out of gas. The stories seem tired. Case in point: she replaces the brilliant connections and observations she used to make in a paragraph with ten-fifteen pages of incidentals. So much seems like padding. Anyone has a hard time topping themselves as they get older, granted. And I think it would be hard for any mortal to write a book like "Open Secrets" in the first place, and I think it's doubly tough to try and top that. Frankly, I think she didn't top it this time or get very close. And I don't know if she's trying so hard. Since "Open Secrets" she's had a "Best of", this collection and the National Book Award. After reading these stories I think the award was given for the body of work she's created and not for the book itself. "The Love of.." feels like a book written to capitalize on someone's reputation and not to capitalize on what lies ahead. And who knows? Maybe she has another "Open Secrets" in her to share. I hope so.
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