Editorial Reviews for this title:
In Alice Munro’s superb new collection, we find stories about women of all ages and circumstances, their lives made palpable by the subtlety and empathy of this incomparable writer.
The runaway of the title story is a young woman who, though she thinks she wants to, is incapable of leaving her husband. In “Passion,” a country girl emerging into the larger world via a job in a resort hotel discovers in a single moment of stunning insight the limits and lies of that mysterious emotion. Three stories are about a woman named Juliet–in the first, she escapes from teaching at a girls’ school into a wild and irresistible love match; in the second she returns with her child to the home of her parents, whose life and marriage she finally begins to examine; and in the last, her child, caught, she mistakenly thinks, in the grip of a religious cult, vanishes into an unexplained and profound silence. In the final story, “Powers,” a young woman with the ability to read the future sets off a chain of events that involves her husband-to-be and a friend in a lifelong pursuit of what such a gift really means, and who really has it.
Throughout this compelling collection, Alice Munro’s understanding of the people about whom she writes makes them as vivid as our own neighbors. Here are the infinite betrayals and surprises of love–between men and women, between friends, between parents and children–that are the stuff of all our lives. It is Alice Munro’s special gift to make these stories as vivid and real as our own.
Alice Munro has been accused of telling the same story over and over, and to a certain extent the characterization is true. Her subject matter is inevitably the vagaries of love between middle-aged people in some rural Canadian setting, trapped there by the combination of their desires and weaknesses. Or, if not love, then at least the mysteries of relationships as characters struggle to understand each other and themselves. But this thematic single-mindedness can hardly be considered a criticism considering Munro tells stories better than anybody else and with a level of precision matched by few. It would be like criticizing Shakespeare for writing about politics.
Runaway is no exception. The stories take place throughout Canada--northern Ontario, the Prairies, the West Coast, Stratford--and feature women and men drifting in and out of each other's orbits, pulled by forces they don't understand. In "Runaway," a woman considers leaving her husband with the help of a neighbor, but the husband has other plans. In "Chance," a woman leaves her life behind in a quest for a man she met on a train crossing the country. Their intertwined lives play out through two more stories, "Soon" and "Silence," but the path they follow is as unpredictable to the reader as it is to them. In "Trespasses," a small town's women dream of escaping their lives only to find themselves in lives they never imagined.
What really marks the stories is Munro's sense of mood. There's a sense of hidden menace or even violence everywhere in Runaway. It occasionally erupts, but always in surprising and unexpected ways, and with unintended consequences. Munro may be an old-fashioned storyteller, but she understands chaos theory well enough. The same story? Sure. But it's a damn good one. --Peter Darbyshire, Amazon.ca
"Runaway" is the first story in this stunning collection, sure to be a runaway success. All of the eight stories here are new, published in book form for the first time. Two of the eight have never appeared anywhere, so this will be a special feast for the millions of Munro fans around the world.
Miraculously, these stories seem to have been written by a young writer at the peak of her powers. Alice Munro's central characters range from 14-year-old Lauren in "Trespass," through the young couple in "Runaway," whose helpful older neighbour intervenes to help the wife escape, all the way to a 70-year-old woman meeting a friend of her youth on a Vancouver street and sitting with him to recall their tangled lives fifty years earlier, through a web of cheerful lies.
Three of the stories, "Chance," "Soon," and "Silence," are linked, showing us how the young teacher Juliet meets her fisherman lover on a train (and, by terrible chance, visits his B.C. home on the day after his wife's funeral); how, years later, she brings baby Penelope back east to show her parents and learns sad secrets about their marriage; and how, twenty years on, she visits the estranged Penelope in her cult-like B.C. community. The result is more powerful than most novels, a quality in Alice Munro's stories that has been noted by many reviewers.
The final story, "Powers," spans 50 years and runs from Goderich to Vancouver and involves a cast of four characters, each of whom steps forward to dominate the scene, not least Tessa, the plain girl whose psychic powers take her on the vaudeville circuit. But it is Alice Munro's own powers that dominate this collection and that will amaze reviewers and readers. How can she keep getting better? How can any one person know so much about the heads and hearts of so many different people? And how can she weave them together in stories that delight academics and ordinary readers alike, making each new Alice Munro book a runaway bestseller?
From the Inside Flap
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