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Lives of Mothers & Daughters: Growing Up with Alice Munro Paperback – April 1, 2008

4.3 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Novelist and short-story writer Alice Munro's many readers are certain to find this an intriguing memoir. It is the first book by Munro's daughter, Sheila, now a mother of two children and an aspiring writer living in British Columbia. The book seems in many ways a typical family story, replete with abundant photographs from the family album, images from the 50s through the 90s that would look perfectly comfortable spread out on the coffee table of almost any middle-class North American home. What makes the book extraordinary are the extraordinary accomplishments of the mother under consideration--Alice, a woman who somehow managed to integrate domesticity with a writer's life and who did it, by Sheila's account, with considerable grace and intelligence. Mommie Dearest this is not. Alice Munro's readers will be especially interested in Sheila's descriptions of family events that worked their way into her mother's stories. Trygve Thoreson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Review

“Sheila Munro establishes herself as…a writer of sophistication and skill. Writing about a literary figure as revered as Alice Munro requires not only integrity but considerable verbal dexterity. Sheila Munro has both.”
–Montreal Gazette

“A perfect mix of biography and personal memoir.”
Hamilton Spectator

“A restrained and respected entry in the child-of-a-famous-writing-parent genre.…What comes through strongly in Sheila Munro’s account…is Alice’s youthful tenacity and ambition.”
–Catherine Bush, Globe and Mail

“The book is chock-full of lesser bombs, threatening to erupt but gently blanketed in love, understanding and affection.”
–Carla Lucchetta, Vancouver Sun

“While students of Alice Munro will relish the biographical revelations, the other side of the equation – the daughter’s struggle for autonomy – has its own claim to uniqueness…To her credit and her reader’s profit, she is clear-sighted about her predicament.”
–Joan Givner, Toronto Star



From the Hardcover edition. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Union Square Press (April 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1402757638
  • ISBN-13: 978-1402757631
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #752,301 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Donna G. Storey on November 12, 2008
Format: Paperback
"Tell all the Truth but tell it slant." It's significant that Sheila Munro chose to open her memoir with this poem by Emily Dickinson, because this is exactly what she offers us--a distinctively honest and unique perspective on the great short story writer, Alice Munro. An exhaustive official biography this is not, nor does it supersede Alice Munro's own largely autobiographical stories as a way to connect with her magical literary sensibility. However, it does give us fascinating insights into what it is like to be intimate with the famous writer as a daughter and friend. Sheila Munro is a fine writer in her own right and she takes risks in style and organization--I happened to enjoy this and found it made for an enjoyable, thought-provoking read. The family photographs alone are worth the price, but it was equally inspiring to learn about Alice Munro's human side: her bouts with writer's block, her struggle with the "double life" of motherhood and writing, her charming reticence about her many awards. As an aspiring writer myself, I realized all women writers are daughters of Alice Munro in a way. We work in her shadow, but like Sheila Munro, we can also use her example to create valuable works of our own. A must for Alice Munro fans and aspiring writers.
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If you have not read Alice Munro, and are a reader and especially a writer of any sort, read all of her writings and read this book. I am not giving this book 5 stars because of the writing or even the organization. But the daughter who was struggling with her own identity in the long gentle shadow of her exceedingly and uniquely talented mother is sharply honest and painfully real in this work with, of course, a happy ending. We all know so little about Munro, I think, because she is Canadian, a short story writer (except for a novel in her early writing days in the 50's), a woman, and a woman that does not seek the fame that could rightly be hers. But writers know. I started reading Alice about 4 years ago and can read little else. And her daughter's book has allowed me to know her more and understand the perspective from which she writes. I can never know enough about Alice Munro and now the daughter, who had the courage to give us her own writing next to the mother's made possible by the mother's love and unorthodox support. Thank you, Sheila!
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Format: Paperback
Sheila Munro brings to this work the same exquisite insight and compassion that marks her mother's novelistic treatment of character. It would have been no small burden as a writer to have lived in her mother's shadow and Sheila Munro explores this with honesty and good humour and without self-pity. In tackling this theme in her first major work, however, she has set herself up for further comparison with the incomparable Alice. I bought this book seeking, somewhat voyeuristically, after Alice Munro, and skipped over the passages in which Sheila focuses on her own life and loves. The book is , essentially, about Sheila's experience of living with an artistic and lauded mother, and because of this focus, she is able to neatly sidestep any potential breaches of Alice Munro's privacy. (But of course, the hope of such breaches underpinned my purchase so I was a little disappointed!) It is, nevertheless, a mature and thoughtful treatment of this theme. The quality of the writing is uneven and the overall structure lacking enough coherence for my taste but there are moments of startling human insight that bode well for Sheila's future writing endeavours - as long as she can break away from explicit depictions of her own history. A pseudonym might also help.
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