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.
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
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