The fourteen stories in this brilliant collection show Alice Munro coming home to southwestern Ontario, with Toronto looming on the horizon. Even “To Reach Japan,” where a Vancouver mother takes her young daughter across the country by train, ends in Toronto. On that journey, different kinds of passion produce surprises, both on the journey and at its end.
The range of storytellers is astonishing, as we hear the young voices of women recalling their teenage years and the equally convincing voice of an old woman fighting Alzheimer’s. Margaret Atwood once shrewdly noted that “pushing the sexual boundaries is distinctly thrilling for many a Munro woman,” and very few of these stories deal with men and women in sedate, conventional domestic settings.
Munro admirers will see that these stories are shorter than many in her recent col­lections, but they have all the sharpness, accessibility, and power of her earlier work, and they are—as always—full of “real” people. The final four works (“not quite stories”) bring the author home, literally. She writes: “I believe they are the first and last—and the closest—things I have to say about my own life.”