four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
14-Jan-Feb-2005
By: 
Alice Munro
user_rating: 
0

A-RunawayIn these eight stories, Munro chronicles entire lifetimes of misfit women who chafe against sexual and cultural repression. Set between the 1920s and present, they take place in Canada, from small towns in Ontario to Vancouver and the wild coast. Three linked stories, "Chance," "Soon," and "Silence," paint a psychological portrait of the same woman as she experiences love, loss, and estrangement at three junctures in her life. In the title story, a brutal man keeps a hard eye on both his wife and neighbor—but the runaway doesn’t know how to escape. In "Tricks," Robin reflects back on a man she met 40 years earlier at a Shakespeare festival. "Something," she says, "though not what she was expecting—had changed her life." In each story, Munro fine-tunes ideas about love, freedom, and survival to create a cast of brave women.
Knopf. 352 pages. $25. ISBN: 140004281X

Boston Globe 4.5 of 5 Stars
"But unlike Chekhov’s characters, who seem illuminated from the inside by the sun of their creator’s love, Munro’s characters are buffeted by Alberta clippers. … Each of the stories in Runaway contains enough lived life to fill a typical novel, and reading them is to become immersed in the concerns and worlds of their various characters." David Thoreen

Oregonian 4.5 of 5 Stars
"Universally acclaimed as a modern master of the short story, Munro does what most writers dream of doing and succeeds at it, page after page, story after story, collection after collection. … It is Munro’s layering of outside realities with inner drama that sets her stories apart." Sarah Gianelli

NY Times Book Review 4.5 of 5 Stars
"Alice Munro has a strong claim to being the best fiction writer now working in North America …" Jonathan Franzen

Baltimore Sun 4 of 5 Stars
"In the Canadian writer’s latest collection, Runaway, wounds both subtle and profound gnaw at the characters’ lives. … They do, however, offer one of literature’s great gifts—making even unbearable things a little easier to bear." Lisa Simeone

Cleveland Plain Dealer 4 of 5 Stars
"Pound for pound, her stories are richer than most. They reverberate the way a good novel can." Karen Sandstrom

Los Angeles Times 4 of 5 Stars
"There is a kind of myth-like quality too, as though she has handed her characters over to Fate and stood back a bit to see how they will react. Throughout these newer stories there is a gravity as well, and in the best of them a quality of suspense that is sometimes so acute as to cause you to read rapidly and anxiously forward to find out what happens next." Michael Frank

Seattle Times 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Her take on the stultifying nature of small-town life (especially in Ontario) will be familiar to readers of her earlier work, but it’s viewed more damningly than ever in this book. … Again and again, small moments—closely observed—expand into revelations of the thorny dynamics or buoyant contradictions of the characters at hand." Michael Upchurch

Critical Summary

Often compared to Eudora Welty, Anton Chekhov, and James Joyce, Munro is a brilliant short story-writer. She mines the small towns of her native Ontario for inspiration, penning short stories (30-40 pages each) that possess the depth of novels. Runaway, her tenth collection, contains her trademark unconventional plots and lost characters. Critics agree that the suspense and drama lodged within the characters give each story its power. Like the best writers, Munro involves readers in her characters’ thoughts and actions, "coaxing trust out of our hands before we realize we had it to give away" (The Oregonian). The tiniest details relate to the largest themes—and most, involving women—are not happy. As the Seattle Times notes, Munro introduces "tougher and chillier than usual" moments than in previous collections, like 1994’s Open Secrets. But, even with a darker view of human nature, Munro "sings, and her women are heroic" (Boston Globe).