About Me

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Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.

Friday, April 8, 2022

My Best Stories by Alice Munro

(5. - 1120.) My Best Stories by Alice Munro - Realizing I had not read any of the stories by Canada’s only Nobel Prize Winner for Literature I purchased this selection of short stories at the Fair’s Fair bookstore located in Inglewood in Calgary.

There is a richness in the descriptions of people, events and settings that is amazingly vivid. Dialogue fills in the spaces but the power of the stories are in the descriptive details. Much current fiction is heavy on dialogue. The stories of Munro reminded me that most of life is spent in observation and reflection rather than speech.

Munro can provide more insight into a character in a 25 - 40 page story than most authors can in a full length book.

In every story Munro develops the minds of her characters.

The stories appear in the chronological order they were written. They were selected by Munro and span several decades.

Life is hard for her characters. Money is usually tight. Men and women are often harsh. The stories should be depressing with bleakness all around yet they did not depress me.

In The Turkey Season a girl of 14 is hired to be a turkey gutter. It is hard repetitive work with a pair of cynical sisters providing sarcastic commentary. The girl, not physically adept, is living in a world of competent physical workers. She gains confidence from being able to do a good job of gutting a turkey.

In The Moons of Jupiter a woman is filled with parental emotions. The dutiful daughter travels across Canada to be with her father as he contemplates heart surgery. One of her adult daughters, living in the city of her father, chooses not to even see her.

In The Progress of Love a daughter contemplates her mother and grandmother. Her mother’s hatred of her father carries past death as she burns her inheritance of $3,000. Deeply poor on the farm there is no money for the daughter to go to high school.

One story, A Wilderness Station, showed Munro could have been a talented writer of mystery short stories. Starting in 1852 it sees two young brothers, George and Simon Herron, starting a farm in the bush of what is now the rich farmland of southern Ontario. The older, Simon, acquires a bride, Annie - an orphan - from the House of Industry in Toronto. One winter day the brothers go out to chop down trees. George says a falling tree branch killed Simon. On the edge of the frontier there is the barest of inquiries into the death.  During the winter Annie’s mind deteriorates. Eventually she walks to a nearby town asking to be put in the gaol as she has murdered Simon. Her recounting of the killing is implausible. George says it is not true. Eventually she becomes a seamstress for a local official. She sets out another version of Simon’s death. There are subsequent scenes in 1907 and 1959. Munro left me unsettled on what happened in the forest when Simon died. She has no need for the customs of modern crime fiction. The story is written in the form of letters.

Munro, in Save the Reaper, invokes the wistful regret of a parent who has not seen her child and grandchildren for 5 years and then has a visit cut short by the longing of her son-in-law to be with his family. And then the mother learns it was her daughter who wanted to shorten the visit. And then memories come back to the woman of how she treated her mother. The story tugs at the heart of every parent whose children and grandchildren are too far away to be seen except through infrequent trips.

The stories flow beautifully. Nary a word is wasted.

I should have read Munro sooner.


  1. I need to read more of Munro's work, too, Bill. Those stories sound memorable, and I really do like exploring an author through short stories. To me, it's a really interesting way to get a feeling for the author's style. Of course, short stories and novels are quite different, but still... I'm glad you enjoyed this.

    1. Margot: Thanks for the comment. The stories hang around in the mind. I understand now why she won the Nobel Prize.

  2. ...most of life is spent in observation and reflection rather than speech - wonderful observation on your behalf. I rarely read short stories,but you have enticed me. To write short is a great skill, for indeed, not a word can be wasted.

    1. Anthony: Thanks for the kind words. I also rarely read short stories. Munro has convinced me I should read more of them.

  3. I could have sworn I had a book of her short stories, but if so it is not yet cataloged. If I don't find it soon, I will go looking online for a short story collection by her.

    1. TracyK: Thanks for the comment. Munro is a remarkable writer.