Alice Munro's short stories are always a delight to read, and Friend of My Youth is no exception. In almost every collection of hers I have read, there is a line or two of description that makes me start out of my chair and realize, yes, that perfectly describes something I have been feeling.
In Hateship, Friendship etc., it was a description
of large family gatherings where no one ever says anything of
consequence that described so many dinners at my grandmother's house.
Not that those dinners were bad, necessarily, but everyone was so
different that nothing of consequence was ever broached.
one, it was the framing device in the first story, a woman talking about
her dead mother, and how she remembers her as she was when she was
dying, and not as she was before. This is something I've been struggling
with, on and off, with my father's death - remembering him before the
end. It's easier, perhaps, because the end came so quickly, but for
months pictures of him yellow and asleep in the hospital bed in the
dining room or the look of fear on his face when he was having the worst
of his strokes crowded out years of good memories. I feel like I'm just
now recovering my sense of him as he was before.
So yes, back
to Alice Munro. Themes of infidelity, love lost and deferred, memory and
the way we invent pasts and lives for people we barely know populate
these stories and weave together in such wonderful ways.
I am so
glad Alice Munro writes short stories. She seems to know instinctively
how long a story should be, and how to get there, even though these are
not stories of urgency, and often seem to meander.