Sincerely, Alice

Munro's Finale?

Dear Life
Alice Munro
Knopf, $26.95, 336 pp.

Time takes its toll on many writers but seems to leave others less scathed. Consider William Trevor and Nadine Gordimer and John Barth, all still productive past the age that Ronald Reagan was when he finished his presidency. Then there’s Alice Munro, whose stories still appear with reassuring frequency in Harper’s and the New Yorker and whose newest collection, Dear Life, contains not just reliably good work but some of her best yet.

Dear Life is Munro’s thirteenth collection of short fiction (to go with one novel), yet these stories exhibit the same mix of dramatic incisiveness and thematic heft that has long characterized her work. Munro has always avoided sentimentality, but here she’s ruthlessly unsentimental. The language is spare and the depictions of conflict and confrontation unsparing, while the internal monologue is stripped down to frank self-assessment sometimes conveyed in “sentences” of a single word. There’s little surface warmth, and not only because the stories are often set in the dirty snow of small-town Ontario. But it would be a mistake to equate that with a lack of empathy or a coldness of spirit. Munro engages deeply with her characters—mainly women too smart...

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About the Author

Dominic Preziosi is Commonweal’s digital editor.