I have so many reviews and so little time! I'm generally not a tremendous fan of short stories; however Alice Munro is one of those few authors who can succinctly and powerfully capture a whole life in the span of a handful of pages, masterfully. And that is something that I enjoy and respect. Many of these stories are set in rural Canada, probably where Ms. Munro herself grew up. Many look back, in 20/20 hindsight, on events that occurred in childhood and that is the event on which the entire story is focussed. I did really enjoy the story, "Haven" in which a passive-agressive woman rebels (albeit passively-aggressively), in spite of having spent the great majority of time deferring to the antisocial opinions of her husband. I liked it because it was the portrait of a woman who are caught in the midst of changing social expectations and norms. The passive aggressive woman was caught between the compelling and strong needs to be independent and the need to belong, between freedom and domesticity (it was the end of the 60's and beginning of the seventies, when feminism was striving to change how we think about gender roles). I also really liked "Gravel," a very haunting tale about a young girl, whose older sister throws herself and the family dog into a lake and the narrator fails to summon help in a timely fashion.
The last four pieces are perhaps the most interesting of all the pieces. They are not fictional short stories but are purely memoir and allow us a small window into the workings of Ms. Munro and her life. I liked them because I got a really good sense of what it was like for Ms. Munro coming of age in a small, rural Canadian town. They don't necessarily resolve neatly and follow tidy boundaries, but that is what makes them so good, since life doesn't necessarily follow the tidy, neat boundaries.
I enjoyed reading this book immensely.