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Dear Life: Stories Hardcover – Deckle Edge, November 13, 2012

4.0 out of 5 stars 723 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Best Books of the Month, November 2012: You half expect a new collection of stories by the beloved Alice Munro to arrive already devoured: pages dog-eared (“I feel exactly the same way! How did she know?”), spine cracked, cover bent from the dozens of times each story deserves to be read. The best thing to say about Alice Munro is said so often, it doesn’t mean much anymore. But here it is for the record: She is a master of her craft. In Dear Life, her 13th collection, Munro again breathes life--real, blemished, nuanced life--into her characters and settings (usually her hometown in Huron County, Ontario). Her empathy is the greatest weapon in her arsenal, and it is on full display here. But the most satisfying part of the new collection is the last four stories, bundled together in what the author calls “Finale,” the closest she’ll ever come to writing about her own dear life. --Alexandra Foster

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Munro’s latest collection brings to mind the expression, “What is old is new again.” As curiously trite and hardly complimentary as that statement may sound, it is offered as unreserved praise for the continued wonderment provided by arguably the best short-story writer in English today. Some of these 14 stories present new directions in Munro’s exploration of her well-recognized universe (rural and small-town Ontario), while other stories track more familiar paths, with characters and familial situations reminiscent of previous stories. That said, the truth is that on whatever level of reader familiarity Munro is working, in every story she finds new ways to make the lives of ordinary people compelling. “Amundsen” has a setting that will pique the interest of avid Munro followers, yet it is delivered with a tone surprising and even disturbing. A young woman ventures to a remote area to assume teaching duties in a TB sanitarium, soon entering into a dismal relationship with the head doctor. But with Munro’s care in craftsmanship and her trademark limpid, resonant style, the reader accepts that the depressing aftereffect is Munro’s intention. “Haven” will come to be considered one of her masterpieces: a quick-to-maturation piece, a fond specialty of Munro’s, this one is about a teenage girl going to live with her aunt and uncle while her parents do missionary work. In quite dramatic fashion, she observes that what might appear as somone’s acceptance of another person’s quirks may actually be indifference. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: A first printing of 100,000 copies supports Munro’s international popularity. --Brad Hooper

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; First Edition edition (November 13, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780307596888
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307596888
  • ASIN: 0307596885
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (723 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #490,771 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
What can be said about Alice Munro's luminous writing that hasn't already been said? What unused plump adjectives might be bandied about to describe her way with words? What turn of phrase or simile might once again skirt the edge of capturing her unparalleled ability to so aptly describe those quiet moments in life that can change everything in a flash? Crossroads, they are called. A lightning bug trapped inside a jar, now free. Her latest collection, DEAR LIFE, is all of those flashy adjectives and overextended metaphors. It's everything you want it to be, and more.

Munro has written 12 other short story collections as well as a few volumes of selected previously published stories and one novel. You'd think with this many published stories in her back pocket that maybe she'd retrace her steps, write the same story but with different characters, rely on a well-tread formula or two for some of the "filler" in the book. But such is not the case. While many reoccurring themes are explored, DEAR LIFE is as fresh and illuminating as any of her previous collections, if not more so. As another reviewer so fittingly put it, "there are no clunkers here."

"To Reach Japan," the first entry in the collection, finds Greta and her young daughter Katy on a train to Toronto to housesit a friend's home for a month while Greta's husband --- and Katy's father --- begins a new job elsewhere. While on the journey, the normally quiet and contained Greta gets too deep in the drink with a younger fellow they meet on the train and, in a moment of lusty abandon, loses track of Katy. Of course, mother and daughter are reunited, but not without Greta feeling the full weight of what might have happened.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Fans of Alice Munro will be very happy with her new collection of short stories. Those that are new to her writing would be better served by starting out with one of her earlier books as these stories are not all that typical of her writing and there is an autobiographical section in the back of the book.

Ms. Munro has published twelve collections of short stories and one novel. She is a winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Booker Award and the Lannan Literary Award. Her books have been translated into thirteen languages.

In the autobiographical section, there are tender remembrances of her past and her time with her familiy. 'Dear Life', the title story, is about her growing up. Her father started a business raising foxes and minks for their pelts. Eventually the business failed and her father went to work in a forgery. Her mother developed Parkinson's Disease when she was in her forties. The family did not realize that it was progressive and incurable. In 'The Eye', she writes about Sadie who helps out in their house. Alice and she develop a close bond. Sadie gets run over by a car on the way back from a dance when she is not yet twenty years old. This story explores the quality of their relationship.

One of the more powerful stories in the collection is 'Amundsen'. A teacher in a rural sanitarium for children with tuberculosis becomes engaged to a doctor who works there. Things don't progress as she hoped they would. 'Leaving Maverly' was my favorite story. Each night, a police officer drives a young woman of a very fundamentalist religious denomination home. One night she skips town. His own wife is very ill with serious heart disease and he ends up taking her to Toronto for care.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A series of simple tales of everyday life with no great drama foretold, but which still draw you into their captivating storyline.

Although each story seems to be plausible, the endings are left open for each person to ascribe as they see fit. In other words there is a great deal of ambiguity to how each of the characters' lives eventually end up.

The author uses the train as a mode of transportation to set the background scene for most of the stories as a unifying theme plus a certain amount of despair and hopelessness in almost every case. Each story has some amount of psychological, spiritual, and sexual nature to it without the use of a lot of 4-lettered words to describe the action.

Each short story is poignantly told with a certain amount of hopelessness in the manner of predestination reminiscent of some European writers as Jean Paul Sartre. Yet in Ms Munro's stories the reader can supply the ending they choose, as nothing is written in stone except for the helplessness of the main characters to change a predestined plan of some existential force.

With the aforementioned precautions noted, I would recommend this fine work of short stories with easily understandable language. Just remember this is not a feel good series of stories although entertaining and evocative of many aspects of human nature.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Uneven. Some stories are spellbinding, others just miss. I used to teach her short stories in a sophomore English at a CC and loved them. So when I read, I'm thinking: how would I teach this one or that one? So far, I'd be inclined perhaps to teach "Dolly," maybe or "In Sight of the Lake." As a whole, I like the stories but not as much as I expected to. I've always enjoyed Munro's quirky characters and we do get those. And the mundane writ large, and we get that. Still, some just fell flat for me--had I overblown my expectations? Or am I on the money for most readers?
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