A portrait of Canadian Life-What I’m Reading: Dear Life

Dear Life by Alice Munro

I recently took a trip with a good friend to the amazing BAnQ or “Grande Bibliothèque” (Big Library) in downtown Montréal. If you live in Montréal and haven’t been, you really should check out this massive, multi-level library housed in a very modern building which welcomes some 50,000 visitors each week!

As we were browsing the fiction section my friend asked what type of books I like to read. I never really know how to classify my favorite genre and often find myself scrambling to provide examples of books or authors to try and explain. This time I answered by simply saying “stories about people”-not very descriptive. I went on to elaborate that I enjoy a story where it is all about the nuances of everyday relationships (and by relationships I mean between all sorts of people) and the complexity and beauty of ordinary life. A story need not have tons of action or an elaborate plot to make it interesting-instead I find the heart of any good novel lies in the depth of its characters.  Is there a name for such a genre? If not we need to think of one-this type of story is definitely its own type of literature!

To return to the library, after listening to my rambling answer my friend said she knew exactly what I meant and recommended the Canadian short story author and recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature, Alice Munro.  What a perfect recommendation! At the current age of 86, Munro has published many collections of short stories which made choosing a book a very difficult task. Based on the intriguing and thought-provoking title I decided to take home Dear Life.

Dear Life

Dear Life is a collection of 14 short stories all set across a sweeping Canadian backdrop. Though originally published in 2012, the majority of stories take place during earlier decades and the post-war era. Reading Munro’s stories you cannot help but to feel nostalgic, almost as if you have stepped into the soft hues of a black and white movie. Each of the stories draws you into the lives of its characters that you easily forget you are reading a collection of short stories-instead you become totally immersed and invested in the one vignette at hand. What I also liked about each of these narratives is the fact that they are “meaty” and long enough to feel like a proper story. I know many people don’t like short stories for the reason that they can leave you hanging just when you feel you have gotten to know the characters. This is not the case with Munro’s work in which each story feels complete and is highly satisfying.

Among the 14 stories you will encounter snapshots of everything from young love to divorce, friendship and old age. What’s more, if you are not familiar with Canada, especially life in Western Ontario (as I was not), this collection will provide you with the wonderful opportunity to explore this beautiful, and at times rugged, landscape.

I am greatly indebted to my friend for recommending this amazingly talented author and look forward to my next trip to the library to discover another of Alice Munro’s collection of short stories.

To buy your own copy of Dear Life from Amazon, click here.