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Dear Life
Cover of Dear Life
Dear Life
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WINNER OF THE NOBEL PRIZE© IN LITERATURE 2013

New York Times Notable Book
Washington Post Notable Work of Fiction
A Best Book of the Year: The Atlantic, NPR, San Francisco ChronicleVogue, AV Club


In story after story in this brilliant new collection, Alice Munro pinpoints the moment a person is forever altered by a chance encounter, an action not taken, or a simple twist of fate. Her characters are flawed and fully human: a soldier returning from war and avoiding his fiancée, a wealthy woman deciding whether to confront a blackmailer, an adulterous mother and her neglected children, a guilt-ridden father, a young teacher jilted by her employer. Illumined by Munro’s unflinching insight, these lives draw us in with their quiet depth and surprise us with unexpected turns. And while most are set in her signature territory around Lake Huron, some strike even closer to home: an astonishing suite of four autobiographical tales offers an unprecedented glimpse into Munro’s own childhood. Exalted by her clarity of vision and her unparalleled gift for storytelling, Dear Life shows how strange, perilous, and extraordinary ordinary life can be.
WINNER OF THE NOBEL PRIZE© IN LITERATURE 2013

New York Times Notable Book
Washington Post Notable Work of Fiction
A Best Book of the Year: The Atlantic, NPR, San Francisco ChronicleVogue, AV Club


In story after story in this brilliant new collection, Alice Munro pinpoints the moment a person is forever altered by a chance encounter, an action not taken, or a simple twist of fate. Her characters are flawed and fully human: a soldier returning from war and avoiding his fiancée, a wealthy woman deciding whether to confront a blackmailer, an adulterous mother and her neglected children, a guilt-ridden father, a young teacher jilted by her employer. Illumined by Munro’s unflinching insight, these lives draw us in with their quiet depth and surprise us with unexpected turns. And while most are set in her signature territory around Lake Huron, some strike even closer to home: an astonishing suite of four autobiographical tales offers an unprecedented glimpse into Munro’s own childhood. Exalted by her clarity of vision and her unparalleled gift for storytelling, Dear Life shows how strange, perilous, and extraordinary ordinary life can be.
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Excerpts-
  • Chapter 1 Chapter 1

    To Reach Japan

    Once Peter had brought her suitcase on board the train he seemed eager to get himself out of the way. But not to leave. He explained to her that he was just uneasy that the train should start to move. Out on the platform looking up at their window, he stood waving. Smiling, waving. The smile for Katy was wide open, sunny, without a doubt in the world, as if he believed that she would continue to be a marvel to him, and he to her, forever. The smile for his wife seemed hopeful and trusting, with some sort of determination about it. Something that could not easily be put into words and indeed might never be. If Greta had mentioned such a thing he would have said, Don’t be ridiculous. And she would have agreed with him, thinking that it was unnatural for people who saw each other daily, constantly, to have to go through explanations of any kind.

       When Peter was a baby, his mother had carried him across some mountains whose name Greta kept forgetting, in order to get out of Soviet Czechoslovakia into Western Europe. There were other people of course. Peter’s father had intended to be with them but he had been sent to a sanatorium just before the date for the secret departure. He was to follow them when he could, but he died instead.

       “I’ve read stories like that,” Greta said, when Peter first told her about this. She explained how in the stories the baby would start to cry and invariably had to be smothered or strangled so that the noise did not endanger the whole illegal party.

       Peter said he had never heard such a story and would not say what his mother would have done in such circumstances.

       What she did do was get to British Columbia where she improved her ­En­glish and got a job teaching what was then called Business Practice to high school students. She brought up Peter on her own and sent him to college, and now he was an engineer. When she came to their apartment, and later to their house, she always sat in the front room, never coming into the kitchen unless Greta invited her. That was her way. She carried not noticing to an extreme. Not noticing, not intruding, not suggesting, though in every single household skill or art she left her ­daughter-­in-­law far behind.

       Also, she got rid of the apartment where Peter had been brought up and moved into a smaller one with no bedroom, just room for a foldout couch. So Peter can’t go home to Mother? Greta teased her, but she seemed startled. Jokes pained her. Maybe it was a problem of language. But ­En­glish was her usual language now and indeed the only language Peter knew. He had learned Business ­Practice—­though not from his ­mother—­when Greta was learning Paradise Lost. She avoided anything useful like the plague. It seemed he did the opposite.

       With the glass between them, and Katy never allowing the waving to slow down, they indulged in looks of comic or indeed insane goodwill. She thought how ­nice-­looking he was, and how he seemed to be so unaware of it. He wore a brush cut, in the style of the ­time—­particularly if you were anything like an ­engineer—­and his ­light-­colored skin was never flushed like hers, never blotchy from the sun, but evenly tanned whatever the season.

       His opinions were something like his complexion. When they went to see a movie, he never wanted to talk about it afterwards. He would say that it was good, or pretty good, or okay. He ­didn’t see the...
About the Author-
  • Alice Munro grew up in Wingham, Ontario, and attended the University of Western Ontario.  She has published twelve collections of stories and two volumes of selected stories, as well as a novel. During her distinguished career she has been the recipient of many awards and prizes, including three of Canada’s Governor General’s Literary Awards and two of its Giller Prizes, the Rea Award for the Short Story, the Lannan Literary Award, England’s W. H. Smith Literary Award, the United States’ National Book Critics Circle Award, the Edward MacDowell Medal in literature, and the Man Booker International Prize. Her stories have appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, Harper’s Magazine, Granta, and other publications, and her collections have been translated into thirteen languages.  Alice Munro lives in Clinton, Ontario, near Lake Huron.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    February 25, 2013
    This audio production presents 14 new stories from Munro, whom Booklist called “the best short-story writer in English today.” Despite the author’s often-brilliant source material, Farr and Morey’s performances are uninspired. There is a quiet desperation to Munro’s characters, a sense that the “dear life” of the title does not refer to life’s beauty, but to its harried restlessness—as in, “holding on for dear life.” In conveying this desperation, both narrators lack subtlety, though Morey does a standout job with the laconic protagonist of “Train,” a man who repeatedly hides from conflict and self-exposure. Because the stories and characters are so different from one another—sharing only their Canadian settings—this audio edition might have benefited from additional narrators. As presented here, the stories and characters bleed into one another, the narrators’ voices barely changing from one piece to the next. A Knopf hardcover.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from September 24, 2012
    Joan Didion once said “I didn’t want to see life reduced to a short story... I wanted to see life expanded to a novel.” Didion had her own purposes, but Munro readers know that the dichotomy between expansive novel and compressed short story doesn’t hold in her work. Munro (Too Much Happiness) can depict key moments without obscuring the reality of a life filled with countless other moments—told or untold. In her 13th collection, she continues charting the shifts in norms that occur as WWII ends, the horses kept for emergencies go out of use, small towns are less isolated, and then gradually or suddenly, nothing is quite the same. There are no clunkers here, and especially strong stories include “Train,” “To Reach Japan,” “Haven,” and “Corrie.” And for the first time, Munro writes about her childhood, in the collection’s final four pieces, which she describes as “not quite stories.... I believe they are the first and last—and the closest—things I have to say about my own life.” These feature the precision of her fiction with the added interest of revealing the development of Munro’s eye and her distance from her surroundings, both key, one suspects, in making her the writer she is. While many of these pieces appeared in the New Yorker, they read differently here; not only has Munro made changes, but more importantly, read together, the stories accrete, deepen, and speak to each other.

  • Kirkus

    Starred review from October 15, 2012
    A revelation, from the most accomplished and acclaimed of contemporary short story writers. It's no surprise that every story in the latest collection by Canada's Munro (Too Much Happiness, 2009, etc.) is rewarding and that the best are stunning. They leave the reader wondering how the writer manages to invoke the deepest, most difficult truths of human existence in the most plainspoken language. But the real bombshell, typically understated and matter-of-fact, comes before the last pieces, which the author has labeled "Finale" and written in explanation: "The final four works in this book are not quite stories. They form a separate unit, one that is autobiographical in feeling, though not, sometimes, entirely so in fact. I believe they are the first and last--and the closest--things I have to say about my own life." The "first" comes as a surprise, because her collection The View from Castle Rock (2006) was so commonly considered atypically autobiographical (albeit drawing more from family legacy than personal memory). And the "last"? When a writer in her early '80s declares that these are the last things she has to say about her life, they put both the life and the stories in fresh perspective. Almost all of them have an older character remembering her perspective from decades earlier, sometimes amused, more often baffled, at what happened and how things turned out. Most pivot on some sort of romantic involvement, but the partners are unknowable, opaque, often even to themselves. In "Train," a character remarks, "Now I have got a real understanding of it and it was nobody's fault. It was the fault of human sex in a tragic situation." In "Leaving Maverley," she writes of "the waste of time, the waste of life, by people all scrambling for excitement and paying no attention to anything that mattered." The author knows what matters, and the stories pay attention to it.

    COPYRIGHT(2012) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Library Journal

    June 1, 2012

    The highly admired Munro has won virtually every award imaginable (e.g., the Man Booker International Prize) and also moves books; her last title, Too Much Happiness, sold nearly 133,000 copies. The stories here highlight key moments when one's life changes forever. Don't miss.

    Copyright 2012 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Booklist

    Starred review from October 1, 2012
    Munro's latest collection brings to mind the expression, What is old is new again. As curiously trite and hardly complimentary as that statement may sound, it is offered as unreserved praise for the continued wonderment provided by arguably the best short-story writer in English today. Some of these 14 stories present new directions in Munro's exploration of her well-recognized universe (rural and small-town Ontario), while other stories track more familiar paths, with characters and familial situations reminiscent of previous stories. That said, the truth is that on whatever level of reader familiarity Munro is working, in every story she finds new ways to make the lives of ordinary people compelling. Amundsen has a setting that will pique the interest of avid Munro followers, yet it is delivered with a tone surprising and even disturbing. A young woman ventures to a remote area to assume teaching duties in a TB sanitarium, soon entering into a dismal relationship with the head doctor. But with Munro's care in craftsmanship and her trademark limpid, resonant style, the reader accepts that the depressing aftereffect is Munro's intention. Haven will come to be considered one of her masterpieces: a quick-to-maturation piece, a fond specialty of Munro's, this one is about a teenage girl going to live with her aunt and uncle while her parents do missionary work. In quite dramatic fashion, she observes that what might appear as somone's acceptance of another person's quirks may actually be indifference. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: A first printing of 100,000 copies supports Munro's international popularity.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2012, American Library Association.)

  • Kirkus, starred review "It's no surprise that every story in the latest collection by Canada's Munro is rewarding and that the best are stunning. They leave the reader wondering how the writer manages to invoke the deepest, most difficult truths of human existence in the most plainspoken language. . . The author knows what matters, and the stories pay attention to it."
  • Booklist, starred review "Unreserved praise for the continued wonderment provided by arguably the best short-story writer in English today. . . On whatever level of reader familiarity Munro is working, in every story she finds new ways to make the lives of ordinary people compelling."
  • PW, boxed, starred review "For the first time, Munro writes about her childhood, in the collection's final four pieces. . . These feature the precision of her fiction with the added interest of revealing the development of Munro's eye and her distance from her surroundings, both key, one suspects in making her the writer she is."
  • Pamela Newtown, O Magazine "With her penetrating new collection, Alice Munro demonstrates once again why she deserves her reputation as a master of short fiction. . . "This is not a story, only life," declares the protagonist of the title narrative. With the subtlety and complexity of Munro's writing, it's hard to tell the difference."
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