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The Love of a Good Woman Hardcover – Sep 26 1998


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: McClelland & Stewart; 1st Edition edition (Sept. 26 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0771066856
  • ISBN-13: 978-0771066856
  • Product Dimensions: 16 x 3.2 x 23.5 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 635 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #468,544 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Amazon

In the world of Alice Munro, the best route is not necessarily the shortest distance between two points. In her ninth superlative collection of short fiction, The Love of a Good Woman, the setting is once again western Canada, and the subject matter is classic Munro: secrets, love, betrayal, and the stuff of ordinary lives. But as is usual for this master of the short form, the path she takes is anything but ordinary. The stunning title story is a case in point. A narrative in four parts, it begins with the drowning of a small-town optometrist and ripples outward, touching first the boys who find the body, then a spiteful dying woman and her young practical nurse. Whose tale is this, anyway? Not the optometrist's, surely, though his death holds it together. The effect is not exactly Rashomon-like either, though each of the sections views him through a different eye. Instead, "The Love of a Good Woman" is as thorough and inclusive a portrait of small-town life as can be imagined--its tensions and its deceit, its involuntary bonds. Within its 75 pages it encompasses a world more capacious than that of most novels.

As always, Munro's prose is both simple and moving, as when the letter-writing protagonist of "Before the Change" sends her love to an ex-fiancé:

What if people really did that--sent their love through the mail to get rid of it? What would it be that they sent? A box of chocolates with centers like the yolks of turkey's eggs. A mud doll with hollow eye sockets. A heap of roses slightly more fragrant than rotten. A package wrapped in bloody newspaper that nobody would want to open.
The fictions in this volume burn with a kind of dry-eyed anti-romanticism--even the ones whose plots verge on domestic melodrama (a baby's near-death in "My Mother's Dream"; an adulterous wife in "The Children Stay"). Densely populated, elliptical in construction, each story circles around its principal events and relationships like planets around a sun. The result is layered and complex, its patterns not always apparent on first reading: in other words, something like life. --Mary Park --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Again mining the silences and dark discretions of provincial Canadian life, Munro shines in her ninth collection, peopled with characters whose sin is the original one: to have eaten of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The good woman of the title story?a practical nurse who has already sacrificed her happiness to keep a deathbed promise?must choose whether to believe another moribund patient's confession or to ignore it and seize a second chance at the life she has missed. The drama of deathbed revelation is acted out, again, between a dying man and the woman at his bedside in "Cortes Island," when a stroke victim exposes his deepest secret to his part-time caretaker, in what may be the last act of intimacy left to him, and in the process puts his finger on the fault lines in her marriage. In the extraordinary "Before the Change," a young woman confronts her father with the open secret of his life and reveals the hidden facts of hers; she is unprepared, however, for the final irony of his legacy. The powerful closing story, "My Mother's Dream," is about a secret in the making, showing how a young mother almost kills her baby and how that near fatality, revealed at last to the daughter when she is 50, binds mother and daughter. Compressing the arc of a novella, Munro's long, spare stories?there are eight here? span decades and lay bare not only the strata of the solitary life but also the seamless connections and shared guilt that bind together even the loneliest of individuals. First serial to the New Yorker. (Nov.) FYI: Four of Munro's previous collections are available in Vintage paperback.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Christa Hill on July 11 2000
Format: Hardcover
After the first fairly gripping story, the fiction quickly falls into some Alice Mundane prose and it seems like it's going to be that way for the long haul. The author seems to have forgotten the necessity of plot in several stories, and the reader is left dragging along to the end only because of confidence in an otherwise accomplished writer. "Cortes Island" has some worthwhile character development, but "Jakarta" and "Save the Reaper" feel like directionless wandering, as if Munro is playing the grandson's alien chase game with her story development: see a possibility, grab onto it there for a while and see where it goes and then grab onto another. While this technique can certainly be successful and give the image of "living" or "evolution" fiction, it doesn't always work, and these three stories prove it.
Furthermore, the "shocking" action of her characters is not believable enough because, despite all the drawn-out development, the reader still can't see the justification in the character's minds. Sure, everyone does the unexpected sometimes, but if all Munro's characters do that, we lose the idea of the story. Pauline, for example, in "The Children Stay," seems to feel too much devotion and affection for her children to be able to just forget them completely for a wild night of sex that leaves her sore, even though they interrupt her life. Most women find that children interfere with the professional, artistic, social (etc) lives they had before becoming mothers, so what sets Pauline apart to actually be able to leave the girls forever for a romance that turns out to be a fling anyway? Munro didn't prepare us enough for her decision, and the story is weakened.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 31 1999
Format: Hardcover
First, let me say that I'm a huge fan of Munro. Let me say that "Open Secrets" is THE book (okay, one of the books) I recommend to people for books that I love. And most of her early stuff ain't bad either. Let me say that as a way to lighten my negative opinion about this book. I think this book can be summed up by one of the characters in the first story (I'm paraphrasing) who's thinking about how as she got older she realized that life took more than she had and left her with less. (Something to that effect.) These stories read as if this were Munro's problem too, as if she's given her best and now she's still got to give more and she's out of gas. The stories seem tired. Case in point: she replaces the brilliant connections and observations she used to make in a paragraph with ten-fifteen pages of incidentals. So much seems like padding. Anyone has a hard time topping themselves as they get older, granted. And I think it would be hard for any mortal to write a book like "Open Secrets" in the first place, and I think it's doubly tough to try and top that. Frankly, I think she didn't top it this time or get very close. And I don't know if she's trying so hard. Since "Open Secrets" she's had a "Best of", this collection and the National Book Award. After reading these stories I think the award was given for the body of work she's created and not for the book itself. "The Love of.." feels like a book written to capitalize on someone's reputation and not to capitalize on what lies ahead. And who knows? Maybe she has another "Open Secrets" in her to share. I hope so.
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Format: Hardcover
In the title story of this collection, Enid, the self-sacrificing practical nurse, is transformed into someone else after she has the sickly and evil Mrs. Quinn as a patient before Mrs. Quinn dies. Without warning, Mrs. Quinn confesses conspiring with her husband to conceal a murder.Up to then, Enid thought of Rupert Quinn as a good man and devoted husband. Does "the love of a good woman" have the power of redemption:? Read the story to get Alice Munro's always astonishing perspective on the subject of goodness.
In another fine story from this collection, "Before the Change", a young woman uses an abortion to test her father and her lover and they both come up short.
In "Jakarta", my personal favorite, Sonje is such a good woman that she takes on the care of her lover's blind mother while Cottar continues a traveling, leftist journalist. But Sonje is not a fool though she may be a saint as her old friend Kent discovers.
The collection contains such thought-provoking studies that it could influence the way you live your life.
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Format: Hardcover
The theme of this short story collection is the various paths that love escorts individuals down. Some of the stories are filled with passion; other nostalgia. The characters vary as the stories vary. Love can be man and woman, mother and daughter, siblings, etc. The stories do not always end happily ever after as the characters dive deeper into morass due to one exposure after another of some dark secrets.
Alice Munro has a deserved reputation for some of the best literary works of the nineties. Her current anthology, THE LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN, overall is a well-written collection, but does not seem to reach the level of excellence set by the author in her previous works. Though several of the eight stories are excellent, some of the tales seem to need constant shock therapy to keep the heart pumping as Ms. Munro reveals one new disjointed surprise after another to keep the story line moving, but only jolts the reader's flow. Overall, this is a fabulous book, but readers need to be aware that it is not on the Munro level of quality.

Harriet Klausner
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