Alice Munro, winner of the Novel Prize in Literature, turned 85 years old yesterday and in honour of her birthday, I have been enjoying her short stories included in the book Runaway. Munro has published 139 short stories and became a nobel laureate at the age of 82. I had read the first story called Runaway previously but the others were all new to me and garnered my interest from the opening lines to the end.
This first book in my boxed set included:
- Runaway – Runaway tells the story of a woman who had run away from her family and dreams of becoming a veterinarian to live in a trailer with a sullen man who she had initially thought would make her happy. With the help of a neighbour she makes a break for it, learning about herself during the process.
- Chance – This story tells the tale of Juliet as she travels to meet a married man that she had a brief encounter with on a train trip. The two shared an unfortunate experience and a bond was formed which encouraged her to make the unexpected trip to his home.
- Soon – This is another story including Juliet, years later as she travels home to visit her parents with her young daughter. Her mother is unwell and she learns more about herself and her parents during the visit.
- Silence – A third story includes Juliet later in her life, her daughter is grown and she is widowed. She struggles with estrangement from her daughter who has joined a retreat and cuts her mother from her life forcing her to live her life independent of her beloved daughter.
- Passion – In this tale, Grace is working at a cottage country restaurant, meets a man and as she becomes involved with him, she becomes part of the fabric of his family. She cuts her foot, requiring stitches and medical treatment from the older brother and the paths of Grace and this family change dramatically.
- Trespasses – This story was the oddest tale of the collection and details the life of a young girl who had moved to the country with her eccentric parents. She struggles to make friends with girls her own age and becomes involved with a woman who works at a hotel starting her to question her family history.
- Tricks – The seventh story has left me reflecting the most. Robin is a single woman, caregiver to her infirm sister who travels to Stratford to see a show each summer. After losing her purse and train ticket, she meets a compelling man who encourages her to meet him after a show next year, wearing the same dress. Excitement builds through the year as she prepares for their meeting but circumstances do not work as expected. Many years later, Robin is able to reconcile the experience.
- Powers – The final story spans the time from a young woman preparing for marriage, spending time with friends and getting distracted by the wedding, family and later caring for her husband. She has a chance encounter with one of the friends many years later and comes to understand events of the past that she may have instigated and the spiralled out of her control.
The stories all had strong women characters who were struggling with their independence, questioning their feelings and trying to understand their roles and relationships. In many ways, they are ordinary stories but leave a reader pondering the details after finishing. Although I read many of these consecutively, I think that I will try slipping a short-story in between novels as I work my way through the box set.
I have to say that I admire Alice Munro who became published at age 37. CBC has put together 85 fascinating facts for her 85th birthday which are worth reviewing. She is truly remarkable and a Canadian author that we all should be familiar with.