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Book Review: ‘Dear Life’ by Alice Munro

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"Dear Life" by Alice Munro

I find it unbelievably ridiculous that I have never read Alice Munro’s work before reading Dear Life.  How is that even possible?  Why have my friends, who read as much as I do (maybe more), never recommended any of Ms. Munro’s books?  These were the questions that came to mind as I turned the last page of her phenomenal book.

Dear Life is Alice Munro’s latest collection of short stories, which include four amazing autobiographical ones that give readers a glimpse into her childhood.  Most of the stories take place around Lake Huron and the detailed descriptions provided made it quite easy for me to vividly imagine each tale’s surroundings. 

In “Amundsen,” one of my favorites in the collection, Munro painted a wonderful picture of what Ms. Hyde sees when she gets off the train.  “Then there was silence, the air like ice.  Brittle-looking birch trees with black marks on their white bark, and some kind of small untidy evergreens rolled up like sleepy bears.  The frozen lake not level but mounded along the shore, as if the waves had turned to ice in the act of falling.”  This attention to detail is one of the reasons why I found it so hard to put down Munro’s book.

In trying to come up with the perfect way to describe Munro’s writing style, the term “quiet but powerful” popped into my head.  The writing in Dear Life is simple, meaning there are no complicated, pretentious sentences that try to make a point but don’t.  Instead, each story is filled with characters like you and me, going about their lives until Life gives them a swift kick in the pants and changes everything. 

The characters are flawed in their own ways and some were just downright terrible.  But don’t we all have that capability?  Don’t we all sometimes do things we shouldn’t in order to get what we want?  One great example of doing bad things to get what one wants is in the very first story.  In “To Reach Japan, Greta is a wife and mother who desires a man she barely knows, but does whatever is necessary to get him.  The lengths this woman goes to are shocking because of the way they were written into the story. 

Munro does not give her readers any warning when something major is about to happen, it just does.  And before you know it, you realize you are in shock and your mouth is hanging wide open. 

And then you move on to the next story and then the next, until you reach the last page and you wonder how you got there so quickly. 

The author, Alice Munro

The author, Alice Munro

As a fellow reader, I say this to all of you:  if you have never read Alice Munro’s work, please pick up Dear Life.  You will come to appreciate what a fine writer she truly is.  I can honestly say that I have added her to my list of favorite authors and will be reading more of her collections.

Dear Life is currently available in paperback by Vintage Books.

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About Writergirl2009

Writergirl2009 is a Paralegal by day, but wishes to release herself from the tedium of her daily life to write full-time. She loves writing about films, televisions shows, books, music or people on the New York subway, where she currently lives (in New York, not on the subway).
  • Dr Joseph S Maresca

    Her writing was recently honored with a Nobel. Her work was honored for the artful psychological dimensions of her work and the clarity of writing demonstrated over the years.

    • Writergirl2009

      And now I know why! She is absolutely amazing!

  • Carol

    I will definitely get this collection. Thanks for a great article and great info on this writer.

    • Writergirl2009

      Thank you!