four-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
45-Mar-Apr-2010
By: 
Alice Munro
user_rating: 
0

Stories

A-TooMuchHappinessAlice Munro is an acclaimed short story writer and the recipient of the 2009 Man Booker International Prize, which honors an author’s overall body of work. Her stories are frequently set in her native Canada, including the Giller Prize–winning Runaway (2004), The View from Castle Rock ( 3.5 of 5 Stars Jan/Feb 2007), and Carried Away: A Selection of Stories (2006).

The Story: In this collection of 10 short stories, Munro explores the lives of individuals in the aftermath of violence, tragedy, and heartbreak. In "Dimensions," a grief-stricken woman visits her husband in an asylum after he commits an unspeakable act. In "Free Radicals," a dying widow tries to outwit an intruder. In "Child’s Play," two young girls carry out a shocking transgression at summer camp. In the longer title story, Munro fictionalizes the last days of 19th-century Russian mathematician Sophia Kovalevsky.
Knopf. 320 pages. $25.95. ISBN: 9780307269768

Entertainment Weekly 5 of 5 Stars
"A brand-new collection of short stories from Alice Munro … is always a cause for celebration, and Too Much Happiness doesn’t disappoint. It dazzles." Tina Jordan

Times (UK) 5 of 5 Stars
"Written with veteran assurance, brimming with intensely believable characters and rich social detail, these dispatches from the most unsparing reaches of Munro’s imagination confirm her acclaimed place on the highest ground of contemporary fiction." Peter Kemp

Christian Science Monitor 4.5 of 5 Stars
"If there’s a better short story writer working today than Alice Munro, I haven’t read her. … The subtleties in Munro’s stories are myriad, making us marvel repeatedly at how much she manages to convey with so few words, including back stories for her characters." Heller McAlpin

Guardian (UK) 4.5 of 5 Stars
"Her prose is clean, precise and unmannered; her stories are attentive to emotion but sometimes almost witheringly unsentimental. … [S]he gives the impression of being able to make the form do pretty much anything she wants, and Too Much Happiness is no exception." Christopher Tayler

NY Times Book Review 4.5 of 5 Stars
"We are shocked, shocked—only to realize, seconds later, that it’s the shock of recognition. We have entertained similar notions; we are that way too." Leah Hager Cohen

San Francisco Chronicle 4.5 of 5 Stars
"One common definition of the short story is that it should focus on a single turning point in a person’s life. But Munro goes further, following her characters into the future after their lives have been shattered, in cool prose that never falters, no matter how impossible the subject." Malena Watrous

Critical Summary

Munro rarely provides clean resolutions to her stories, and she often drags her devoted readers unapologetically through an emotional ringer. Too Much Happiness is no exception. Critics reacted almost viscerally to this bleak collection, calling it fearless, glorious, and deeply unsettling. They marveled at Munro’s grasp of human nature and noted that her elegant, understated language renders her stories all the more devastating. Although nearing her eighth decade, this author is in no danger of becoming repetitive or complacent. Too Much Happiness is compelling, brilliant fiction that showcases a master at the very top of her game.