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Author of AGAINST A DARKENING SKY, THE EMPTY ROOM, OUR DAILY BREAD, and others. Find out more at www.LaurenBDavis.com. I read as if my sanity depended upon it.. . . oh, wait, it does! Snort.

Dear Life

Dear Life: Stories - Alice Munro Quintessential Munro. This book may well be her last. Certainly the four autobiographical stories at the end of the book seem to hint at this. Perhaps it is the idea she will retire now, or something deeper in the stories, but I admit to feeling terribly sad at the end of the book. The tone here is, to my ear, wistful, almost elegiac, as though the author, and the characters are bewildered by the twists and turns their lives have taken and baffled or slightly disappointed at where they find themselves. It is a book full of the sort of insights into the human heart one has come to expect from Munro. It's true, I found the ending to the first story a bit contrived, but when I reflect on it as part of the work as a whole I find it oddly fitting. Perhaps you will as well. Each of Munro's characters (and there's no need for me to provide a list here, the jacket blurb as well as other reviews will do that), are somewhat buffeted by their lives -- aren't we all? -- and yet there is an overall tone of Grace here, a wonder at the fragility of a people's lives, their love, their possibilities. The last two sentences of the book -- "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." -- will, I suspect be much discussed. Certainly there is not a story in this collection to which that line might not apply. Indeed, just as I think of the title of Carson McCullers' novel, "The Heart is a Lonely Hunter" as perhaps the perfect title, in that I can't think of a book it wouldn't fit, so I think of Munro's last line. Its simplicity, clarity and profundity (especially so placed) are trademark Munro. It is the sort of writing that makes me proud to be a writer, and to vow to do be a better one.