One of the world’s most beloved writers, Alice Munro, assisted in igniting an interesting debate at our January meeting through her most recent work, Dear Life.
I chose Dear Life for a couple of reasons:
5. It was the only book I received for Christmas. (This technically shouldn’t count as a reason, but it saved so many hours of partaking in my own geekfest. As I mentioned at a meeting six months ago (and perhaps mistakenly, but now the cat’s out of the bag): “I’m sick of reading post WWII romantic garbage,” but I also realize that the majority of our members aren’t interested in reading biographies about political figures or voter-turnout in Canada (which are books that somehow couldn’t make me happier), so Dear Life appeared to be a viable choice that would please everyone.
4. We have never read short stories prior to this meeting, and I thought it would evoke a unique discussion.
3. Canadian literature. I have to say, the UBC is absolutely nailing the Canadian picks. I have never read so much Canadian literature in my life! (Not complaining).
2. Alice Munro lives in rural Huron County. That’s right, folks — only the best of the best come from the HC, but I might be biased.
1. The most obvious and important reason: she won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2013! Need I say more? Absolutely. Munro is the first Canadian woman to win this prestigious award since 1901. Coined as the “master of the contemporary short story,” Munro is only the 13th woman to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. I think it is remarkable that Munro can evoke such emotion in her readers from writing about small-town Ontario.
In my view, our January book club discussion was unlike any other, mainly because we have never critically discussed short stories.
Our members’ perspectives varied. Some absolutely despised this book. (You know who you are). These members expressed the view that her work is depressing, and they did not understand what Munro was ultimately trying to uncover in some of these stories. I guess you could say, that some felt that the stories did not have a clear thesis.
Others believed (myself included), that Munro captured those very human moments that emphasize life’s unpredictability. Yes, some of her stories were not particularly uplifting, but I would argue that this collection of short stories employs a fictional piece of writing that highlights the human condition.
Regardless, the entire group questioned whether we would have felt differently about this collection if we chose to read a story from time to time, rather than reading the entire collection in a single sitting.
Our group concluded that despite the unique discussion that took place, and the myriad of perspectives around the table, Dear Life enabled us to analyze Munro’s short stories through a lens that highlighted the intricacies of life.
The final quote in the final short story (“Dear Life”), very much resonated with me, and take it as you please:
“We say of some things that they can’t be forgiven, or that we will never forgive ourselves. But we do— we do it all the time.”