being human in Canada
I first discovered Alice Munro when I was in my twenties. Despite being a Winnipeger, I found immediate resonance in her tales of life in small town Ontario, lives primarily of girls and women. The fact that she wrote about female coming of age with a searingly unsentimental yet deeply profound voice, felt at times as though she was writing my life. I quickly devoured everything she had ever written, and then moved on.
I recently stumbled upon Runaway - Munro's 2004 collection of short stories - at the library, realized it had been years since I had read any Alice Munro, and took it home.
Some of the stories in Runaway follow the same characters over time, geography, and circumstance. I love the continuity in that approach, mainly because my main objection with Alice Munro's short stories is that, although they are as fully realized and as deep as any novel, I miss the characters when the story is done. It's comforting to see them return to the pages, older, and though not necessarily wiser, certainly with a different understanding of life.
The final story in Runaway, although a single story, is divided into chapters and spans 50 years. Perhaps another reason that Alice Munro's writing keeps resonating with me is that just as I read her coming of age stories as a young woman, I now find something of myself echoed in her current stories about women of a certain age.
Munro is at her very finest when she writes of the small tragedies of life, those often unexamined minor twists of fate that subtly but irrevocably tinge the future. Those missed encounters, those lies we tell ourselves, those misunderstandings that are never resolved - these are the currency of Munro's stories.
The collection of stories in Runaway enthralled me, moved me, and left me slightly wistful but much richer for having read them. You really should read them too.