An anthology of stories probing the human psyche. In the title story, a woman prepares to put her life on the line to get a man. She will confront him with a murder he committed, at which point he might kill her, but if he doesn't she will have him in her power.
The title story was actually the first thing of Alice Munro's I ever read, in some anthology or other, and I was immediately impressed by it, particularly by all the tiny little details that simultaneously seemed so true to familiar human experience and so utterly original. What strikes me now, having read the rest of the stories in this collection, is how often Munro provides us with these deft little details while simultaneously leaving the big emotional stuff that's actually at the heart of the story mostly implicit and hinted at. This doesn't always entirely work for me; there are pieces in here that I find a little unsatisfying, no matter how well-written they are. But when it works, it really works.
Rating: I'm giving this one a 4/5, but the best stories definitely rate higher than that.
The title story, especially, is a tour de force in which we are primed in the opening paragraphs to take an interest in a sudden death, but then determinedly led away from it to follow various characters who don't seem to have anything to do with the matter, but tell us a remarkable amount about the workings of small-town society in the fifties. And a beautifully obscure ending that makes you slam on the brakes and rewind the story in your mind to sort out what was really going on all along.
I loved this book for the same reasons I loved Runaway. The characters were engaging, the stories felt complete, and the pacing was impeccable. While other short story writers too frequently give me a glimpse of a person I’d like to know more of, Ms. Munro’s stories all feel to me that they’re exactly as long as they should be. I read this months ago and unfortunately I can’t remember a specific story that stood out, but I am left with a very concrete feeling that this collection was successful for me and has further cemented Ms. Munro as one of my favorite short story writers.
All of the stories explore different human connections. Unfaithful marriages, nursing the dying, landlord and tenant, mother and child...each relationship is riddled with conflict and emotion. Munro captures these relationships so well they seem to be her specialty.
The stories describe the mundane, the every day, the usual progression of lives. It's like a short bike ride on an unremarkable day. And then the bike tire brushes a rock, the rider loses control, perhaps for a second or enough to tumble down by the side of the road, or worse, into coming traffic, but no, nothing is really that drastic. Just temporarily alarming and maybe life-changing.
Recommended for those who like to read about small town mysteries, neighborly gossip, secretive doctors, and failed marriages.
These are several of the stories told in The Love of a Good Woman, Alice Munro’s collection that focuses on ordinary people who must deal with extraordinary circumstances involving lost love, betrayal, and death, among other things. It is also the second volume of the author’s fiction that I have read and I confess to having a “love/not really feeling it” relationship with her work. On one hand, I appreciate the exquisite craftsmanship of her writing; it truly is amazing how much detail and insight she can pack into only about 30 or 40 pages of text. Also, each of these tales provides a master’s class in subtle storytelling, with many of the important plot twists foreshadowed early on or revealed in flashback near the end.
For as much as I admired the quality of the writing, however, I found each of the eight stories themselves to be oppressively grim and unpleasant. Worse than that, though, was the lack of single likeable character anywhere in the entire book. With no one to root for (or, at least, identify with emotionally), I found myself approaching these tales in an overtly clinical manner—almost as a professor might grade a stack of term papers—rather than allowing myself to be immersed in the protagonist’s world. Needless to say, reading this book was not a particularly satisfying experience and it is not one that I am likely to repeat again soon.
Overall, once you get used to Munro's disordered "life snpashots" style, the stories are very enjoyable if a bit repetitive by the end. Not sure if I will ever pick up another Munro book but I am definitely glad that I have read this one.