At 81 years of age, it might be tempting to suggest that Alice Munro has reached a period of late mastery. Tempting, that is, were it not for the fact that she has produced a seemingly unbroken series of masterpieces since her first short-story collection, Dance of the Happy Shades, won the Governor General’s Literary Award in 1968. What is truly remarkable is how, even after 14 collections, Munro continues to evolve, refusing to remain complacent with past successes.
With Dear Life, the woman Margaret Atwood once anointed to international literary sainthood continues to surprise and delight readers and critics alike. In his starred feature review, James Grainger points out that Munro sustains her movement away from larger, more detailed narratives toward a style that is more expressionistic. The result, Grainger writes, is a less complete but more startling accounting of character types familiar to Munro’s readers. We’ve encountered these people before, the reader thinks, but not with such stark, almost surreal insight. In book after book, Munro signals there may be nothing she is incapable of doing in her fiction.