I’m almost ashamed to admit that this was my first Alice Munro experience, and I choose that term with purpose. I didn’t read Munro; I experienced it. Because the entire time you are reading her, you are also set alight with the flames of awe and jealousy.
How did she do this? How did she do all of this in the first two pages? How did she make me feel so mournful and tired as I sit at my lovely pub table with a glass of hot coffee? How did she transport me to this horse farm and make me love a goat? How does she manage to maintain effortless control over not only the characters and her perfectly paced plot, but also the weather, the quirks of various animals, the details of mobile home carpeting, and the particular smell of apple-scented soap? How does she switch narrators without so much as flinching? How does she manifest Clark, Carla, and Sylvia in an alternate universe in which they continue to exist after you are done reading? How does she make you keep thinking about Carla’s hair, or Clark’s cruelty, or the damn goat?
I am the granddaughter of a frugal, Depression-raised Polish grandmother who saves the other half of her pickles and ginger ales. Opulence makes me uncomfortable. I can’t say I enjoyed this story because it was just too good. Munro’s mastery is distracting. Imagine trying to get dressed in the morning with a Picasso hanging on your wall or a 10-carat Kardashian-sized diamond on your ring finger.
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The Moons of Jupiter.
Friend of my youth.