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Lives of Mothers & Daughters: Growing Up with Alice Munro [Paperback]

Sheila Munro
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

April 1 2008
Sheila Munro is the daughter of one of the world’s most admired fiction writers: Alice Munro, three-time winner of Canada’s prestigious Governor General’s Award. In Lives of Mothers and Daughters, she reveals what it was like to grow up with a mother of such tremendous renown. At the core of the book lies a loving and intimate biography of Alice, presented as only a daughter can. Sheila traces the story back to her ancestors, who left Scotland in the early 19th century, before telling of Alice’s birth in 1931, her youth growing up on an Ontario farm, and her two marriages, and two grandchildren—Sheila’s own children.
Sheila has a tale to tell that’s her own as well, involving her writerly aspirations and her efforts to forge a unique path while following in her mother’s footsteps. And so, from her perspective as both an author and a mother, Sheila writes frankly about her mother and her mother’s writing. The legions of devoted Alice Munro fans will glimpse real-life settings, situations and characters that have worked their way into her fiction as  Sheila offers a behind-the-scenes tour (replete with Munro family snapshots) of the inspirations for the tales Munro fans know and love.

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From Amazon

In 1997 Alice Munro, one of the most famous and respected fiction writers in the world, approached her daughter, Sheila, about writing her biography. Sheila was in her mid-40s, with two young sons, and struggling to come into her own as a writer. "I was the wrong person to write a biography," she remembers thinking. "I was much too close to her for that. What I wanted to do was to write a memoir about what it was like growing up as her daughter." To Sheila Munro's credit, Lives of Mothers and Daughters is a great deal more than that. Part memoir and part biography of her mother, Lives gives a well-crafted and even-handed account of Alice Munro's ancestry, her childhood in Wingham, Ontario ("inconceivably harsh and full of extremes"), her stormy marriage and divorce, and her career as a writer. Throughout the work, Sheila Munro takes pains to articulate how her mother managed, with varying degrees of success, to negotiate her responsibilities as wife and mother in relation to her writing. The daughter proves particularly skilled at unpacking her mother's fiction, illuminating how real-life events often informed Alice Munro's short stories as well as her novel, Lives of Girls and Women. "I know I am on dangerous ground here," she cautions. "But I can't unravel the truth of my mother's fiction from the reality of what actually happened.... So unassailable is the truth of her fiction that sometimes I even feel that I'm living inside an Alice Munro story."

Although we all read to some extent to learn about life, Sheila Munro, as the child of a writer, must face the dilemma of interpreting her own life refracted through the prism of her mother's work. Lives of Mothers and Daughters takes a compelling look at one of Canada's best-known and most celebrated authors, and Sheila Munro's first book proves as well that she has discovered a voice of her own. --Svenja Soldovieri --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Novelist and short-story writer Alice Munro's many readers are certain to find this an intriguing memoir. It is the first book by Munro's daughter, Sheila, now a mother of two children and an aspiring writer living in British Columbia. The book seems in many ways a typical family story, replete with abundant photographs from the family album, images from the 50s through the 90s that would look perfectly comfortable spread out on the coffee table of almost any middle-class North American home. What makes the book extraordinary are the extraordinary accomplishments of the mother under consideration--Alice, a woman who somehow managed to integrate domesticity with a writer's life and who did it, by Sheila's account, with considerable grace and intelligence. Mommie Dearest this is not. Alice Munro's readers will be especially interested in Sheila's descriptions of family events that worked their way into her mother's stories. Trygve Thoreson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Pretty good but unremarkable March 8 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I've bought and read this memoir out of love for and interest in Alice Munro, of course. It is an honest and sincere effort to depict how a daughter of such an accomplished writer had felt trying to make a name for herself in the shadow of such a remarquable mother.If talent and skills or genius were transmitted by way of genes, we would have numerous dynasties with all the good and bad that comes with them. But talent does not work this way. I can understand the real love for writing and love of books of anybody and more so of a daughter of Alice Munro, but I'm afraid that for this author the stakes were way too high. Neither Sheila Munro nor us would ever know what kind of writer would she have been if she had another mother or if she had been a writer at all.
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Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must for Alice Munro Fans and Aspiring Writers Nov. 12 2008
By Donna G. Storey - Published on Amazon.com
"Tell all the Truth but tell it slant." It's significant that Sheila Munro chose to open her memoir with this poem by Emily Dickinson, because this is exactly what she offers us--a distinctively honest and unique perspective on the great short story writer, Alice Munro. An exhaustive official biography this is not, nor does it supersede Alice Munro's own largely autobiographical stories as a way to connect with her magical literary sensibility. However, it does give us fascinating insights into what it is like to be intimate with the famous writer as a daughter and friend. Sheila Munro is a fine writer in her own right and she takes risks in style and organization--I happened to enjoy this and found it made for an enjoyable, thought-provoking read. The family photographs alone are worth the price, but it was equally inspiring to learn about Alice Munro's human side: her bouts with writer's block, her struggle with the "double life" of motherhood and writing, her charming reticence about her many awards. As an aspiring writer myself, I realized all women writers are daughters of Alice Munro in a way. We work in her shadow, but like Sheila Munro, we can also use her example to create valuable works of our own. A must for Alice Munro fans and aspiring writers.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars insight and kindness March 7 2008
By Annie McNab - Published on Amazon.com
Sheila Munro brings to this work the same exquisite insight and compassion that marks her mother's novelistic treatment of character. It would have been no small burden as a writer to have lived in her mother's shadow and Sheila Munro explores this with honesty and good humour and without self-pity. In tackling this theme in her first major work, however, she has set herself up for further comparison with the incomparable Alice. I bought this book seeking, somewhat voyeuristically, after Alice Munro, and skipped over the passages in which Sheila focuses on her own life and loves. The book is , essentially, about Sheila's experience of living with an artistic and lauded mother, and because of this focus, she is able to neatly sidestep any potential breaches of Alice Munro's privacy. (But of course, the hope of such breaches underpinned my purchase so I was a little disappointed!) It is, nevertheless, a mature and thoughtful treatment of this theme. The quality of the writing is uneven and the overall structure lacking enough coherence for my taste but there are moments of startling human insight that bode well for Sheila's future writing endeavours - as long as she can break away from explicit depictions of her own history. A pseudonym might also help.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars if you love Alice Munro, have to read this! Sept. 26 2012
By deborah - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
If you have not read Alice Munro, and are a reader and especially a writer of any sort, read all of her writings and read this book. I am not giving this book 5 stars because of the writing or even the organization. But the daughter who was struggling with her own identity in the long gentle shadow of her exceedingly and uniquely talented mother is sharply honest and painfully real in this work with, of course, a happy ending. We all know so little about Munro, I think, because she is Canadian, a short story writer (except for a novel in her early writing days in the 50's), a woman, and a woman that does not seek the fame that could rightly be hers. But writers know. I started reading Alice about 4 years ago and can read little else. And her daughter's book has allowed me to know her more and understand the perspective from which she writes. I can never know enough about Alice Munro and now the daughter, who had the courage to give us her own writing next to the mother's made possible by the mother's love and unorthodox support. Thank you, Sheila!
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a great supplement to reading alice munro Feb. 11 2012
By Phyllis Slutsky - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
If you like the works of Alice Munro this memoir by her daughter helps you to understand her writing even better
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