August 11, 2013
Dear Life - Alice Munro
It is hard to write a review of a short story collection, as each story is individual unto itself. An Alice Munro short story is like a snapshot in time. Sometimes you get a bit of background of what came before, and sometimes you get a hint of what might happen afterwards. But generally, you are just thrown right into the middle of the action which will end 20-30 pages later. I find her writing to be very vivid that it only takes a couple of paragraphs before I am right there with the characters.
This collection was no different. I was able to relax, knowing that I was safe in the hands of a master storyteller. That doesn't mean no plot twists, it just means that I know that I am not going to be left hanging at any point, I am going to be immersed in the setting and the action, and that the characters are going to be realistic and true to themselves.
Interestingly, the last 4 stories in the collection she referred to as the most autobiographical stories she ever had written or will write. And yet they still had the feel of an Alice Munro story. The only thing is that as I started each one, I knew who the narrator, who the "I" of the story was going to be. But each story was an independent snapshot, not dependent on one another. And I guess that can be interpreted as a compliment on her short stories. If the non-fiction felt like the fiction, then the fiction is so true-to-life that it could have happened.
I think that it was Shelagh Rogers who said that she has a bittersweet feeling with each new collection of Alice Munro stories, as she is unsure if this is going to be the last collection due to the author's advancing age and health concerns. I can echo that sentiment - I truly hope that there are more stories to come from this Master of the English Language; but even if she never publishes another story, this would be a good collection to go out on.