Last week, while banished from my house so that painter men could change our walls from a boring white to an inviting brown, I was thankful to live in beautiful California, and that our townhouse has a pool just outside the front door. So, I sat beside the pool and finished the next book in my Book Awards Reading Challenge, Runaway, by Alice Munro. This book won the Giller Prize, which is an award given for outstanding works of Canadian fiction.
If you’re unaware of Alice Munro’s work, it is almost exclusively comprised of short stories, and Runaway is no exception. There are 8 short stories in this volume, all of them about Canadian women. With so many short stories, I feel as though I am getting a glimpse of a story…like the author didn’t have enough of an idea to write a novel, so they decided to keep it brief instead. With Munro’s stories, however, I feel like she is giving me an entire story in a very brief period of time. There are no wasted words in the genre, and I get the feeling that Munro doesn’t like to waste words.
I liked all of the stories in the book, though perhaps my favorites might be the trilogy focused on a character named Juliet. The first story in the series, Chance tells of Juliet’s chance meeting with a man on a train, a meeting which changes her life forever. The second story, Soon, takes place a few years after Chance, and is about a visit that Juliet and her infant daughter, Penelope, make to her parents. The third, and saddest story in the group, Silence, tells of Juliet and Penelope’s estrangement…you only see the story from Juliet’s side, you don’t get to find out exactly why it is that Penelope has decided to distance herself so completely from her mother.
Fans of An Affair to Remember will appreciate Tricks, the story of a young woman who escapes the obligations of her daily life, caring for her sister, who is ill, by attending a Shakespeare Festival in a neighboring village once a year.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. Every story is full of well-developed, complicated characters. The motivations and actions of the characters are so rich and odd, you can’t help but want to come back for more.
It was a fine day by the pool, I must say.