Alice Munro is not exactly a well-kept secret. A Canadian author who has published more than fourteen collections of short stories, last year she was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. The vast majority of her stories take place in Canada, and are from the perspective of women. She has been publishing since 1968, and yet it took me until now to read anything of hers. Which has turned out to be an incredible oversight on my part, because oh my God, this woman deserves every ounce of the immense praise that has been heaped on her.
A few weeks ago, while leisurely browsing at the library, I came across Munro’s latest book, Dear Life, sitting on a display shelf. I was attracted to the bright cover, and immediately put it into my bag. Bryan had come along to do some work since our internet had yet to be set up in our new place, and so I sat on the floor while he worked, and cracked that strangely enticing book. I was immediately hooked. Munro writes in rich prose, with incredible depth of feeling and understanding. Her characters all seem like real people, and on every page she vividly draws their surroundings, which I sometimes thrilled to recognize from my own experiences, or at least to have a concrete idea of what they would be like more so than I do of somewhere more far flung.
There was not a single story in Dear Life that made me think, “Oh, well, that one wasn’t quite as good as the others.” She is not afraid to tackle hard topics, or disturbing ones, either, and draw them with just as much detail and authenticity. Her work rings with honesty and a crackling appreciation for the vastness of human experience.
If you, like me, have never read a Munro, if you have ever thought that short stories weren’t your thing, or you’ve somehow never heard of her, forget all of that, go out and get one of her books, and prepare yourself to be amazed. To fall head over heels in love.