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Dear Life: Stories (Vintage International) Kindle Edition
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"It has become practically de rigeur to refer to Munro as 'our Chekhov'... But at this point in Munro's career, how much can it add? What is certain is this: She is our Munro. And how fortunate we are to call her that." -- New York Times Book Review --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
- Publication Date : November 13, 2012
- File Size : 1315 KB
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Language: : English
- ASIN : B0084TWN9K
- Print Length : 338 pages
- Publisher : Vintage (November 13, 2012)
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Enhanced Typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #99,295 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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DEAR LIFE was published in 2012, when Munro was eighty-one. As of now, it is her last book of entirely new material, as is likely to remain the case given her age. These late stories are more stripped down and straightforward, the prose simpler and sparer. But the stories are just as beguiling, and their characters just as nuanced and headstrong and surprising in their own usually quiet ways.
The book contains two groups of stories. The first consists of ten rather conventional short stories. All are set in Munro's native Canada, most of them in rural or small-town Ontario, with a few excursions into Toronto. Two of them are set during WWII, and two start in WWII and stretch into the Sixties. The characters are rather ordinary people, though they tend to be loners, existing a little outside the main currents of society. (Perhaps more of us fit that description than we would like to admit -- which may be one of Munro's lessons.)
The last four pieces in the book are personal to Alice Munro. In a brief introduction to them, she writes that they are "autobiographical in feeling, though not, sometimes, entirely so in fact." She also writes that they are "the first and last--and the clearest--things I have to say about my own life." In one, she goes to a viewing at age six; the deceased, struck by a car while walking next to the road after a dance, is the young woman who helped around the house and took care of Alice after her brother and sister were born. Another takes place the summer after Alice had her appendix removed as well as a tumor the size of a turkey egg (apparently benign given that she is writing about it seventy years later), and her father masterfully eased her mind when she had unsettling thoughts about strangling her sister. I won't attempt to summarize the other two. All four, however, are special -- even more so than the ten short stories in the first grouping.
Love, and un-love, its "anti-matter" complement are woven into most of her stories. So too is the impact of the Great Depression as well as World War II on rural Canadian life. Her stories weave back and forth across time, and a character's motivation is often explained in words that ring so true, and you have to wonder how Munro would know them. For example, one of the longest stories is entitled "Train." A soldier is coming home from World War II, and inexplicable hops off the train before it arrives at his destination. He stops at a farm house, and takes up with the woman who is living there alone. He proves himself handy, performing those essential functions that some women seek, often described as "taking out the garbage." In this story, as in some others, there is the chance meeting of someone from your youth, that you had not seen for 40 years. And then there is the motivational insight, summed up in a pithy observation of a woman in far-off Southhampton, England: "That's enough, sonny boy, you're down and out."
In this collection the last four stories are directly drawn from Munro's life, or, as she says: "I believe they are the first and last - and the closest - things I have to say about my own life." As with so many stories, they strongly resonated, and stirred up memories of my own childhood I had never truly reflected on. Like, for example, how one's childhood home was orientated, and the distance it was from the town, and how that might have impacted one's development. There was an older "caregiver," as we call them today, how she suddenly disappeared, and how that was explained. It has been decades since I thought about the first time I was in the hospital, age 6, to have my tonsils removed, and the crazy hallucinations that ether can induce. One of Munro's stories about her own first operation - her only one - stirred up those memories. As did the last story, whose title was used for this collection, and is a specific phrase that has numerous usages: "Dear Life." It was a reminder that in those seemingly more innocent times of one's youth that there were "crazy people" out there that could have brought your life to an early end, save for that all important element of chance.
The power of the Nobel. Munro is now read much more today. Currently this book has 586 reviews, and I am confident that number will soon surpass a thousand. When I posted my reviews of her other collections, many had only 10-20 reviews, and in some cases, that is still true, for example The Beggar Maid: Stories of Flo and Rose , Friend of My Youth: Stories and The Progress of Love . I would strongly encourage consideration being given to each of those collections also, as they are of the same quality of this one: 6-stars.
Top reviews from other countries
And boy, does Alice Munro know how to do it. This book contains 'Amundsen' which is, for my money, the most beautiful and heart-breaking love story ever written (bar Joyce's 'The Dead'). It is so elegant and atmospheric, I felt transported inside of a 1940s film, and it tugs at your heartstrings without even trying. I can't ever remember shouting 'Whaaaat?!' in the middle and then being reduced to tears by a single, unexpected little sentence at the end of one little story.
Sure, we won't feel all warm and fuzzy inside after reading this book, but then again, real life also rarely leaves us feeling full of beans, does it? I love this writer for showing so much respect for us, her readers, by refusing to sugar-coat anything.
Whilst there's no doubt that they're beautifully written and the scenery and weather is a stunning feature, I found the lack of plot, characterisation and character motivation made it a difficult read. Whilst I don't need everything spelt out, I personally do like some sort of understanding as to why certain things happen. I'm sure many will find the beauty in the unexplained but this wasn't for me personally.