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Runaway by Alice Munro

Runaway (2004)

by Alice Munro

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Showing 1-5 of 60 (next | show all)
Is Alice Munro, winner of three Governor General Awards, the Giller Prize, and numerous other Canadian and international literary awards including the Nobel Prize in Literature, beyond criticism?

I just finished Runaway, a collection of eight of her short stories. Actually, there are only five since a long one is broken into three segments. Why was this done? I have no idea.

The stories presented in this anthology are, without doubt, very compelling and the writing was flawless as you would imagine. The characterization is subtle but incredibly telling – you almost immediately know someone like the character, and more than often, don’t like them.

However, I have trouble with the way Munro ends the majority of these stories.

Endings to short stories usually fall into one these four categories: denouement, realization, epiphany or the story ends itself.

In my mind the most satisfactory ending is when the story comes to its natural conclusion and the ending, though not necessarily anticipated, seems inevitable. Only two of the collection presented in Runaway ends this way.

The others all seem too coincidental, too serendipitous. Two stories are ended by chance meetings many years after the main events of the plot have taken place and the characters, more or less, explain to the reader what actually happened.

I would have expected more from the literary icon.

In another, an insignificant and totally accidental event is the catalyst for a dramatic turn of events I just couldn’t imagine the characters undertaking. Yes, I went back and searched for the clues. Maybe a more astute reader would have found them, but I didn’t.

I understand literary short story endings can be more complex, that it’s not necessarily about tying up loose ends, but more about story’s the emotional and psychological impact, but given all that, another ending makes no sense whatsoever, emotionally or psychologically.

Should I be worried that my citizenship is about to be revoked, or worse, that some unseen force is about to smote me?
  RodRaglin | Mar 24, 2015 |
Certainly a master short story teller, deserving the Nobel laurels she recently received. The stories share the theme of journeys, some successful, some not, to a different life. Several stories are continuations of characters as their lives move on. ( )
  stevesmits | Feb 17, 2015 |
Substance: These "true confessions" stories of love and betrayal are interesting enough, but seem to have a lot of "coincidences" as important plot points.
Style: Munro is an accomplished writer, and somewhat of a lyrical minimalist, to coin a phrase. ( )
  librisissimo | Dec 1, 2014 |
I know that I am part of a very small minority, but I am not an Alice Munro fan. Her stories aren't bad, but to me, they are just incredibly boring. I will give her credit for writing realistic contemporary dialogue, and I guess it's a talent to be able to write a long story about ordinary people in fairly ordinary situations. And there are brief moments of insight into human nature. But that's about all I have to say. I've now read several of her collections, and I've felt the same way about each. It's never a good sign when you are about halfway through a story and just want it to end . . . For the last 100 pages, I've been thinking about what I will read next. (Hint: It won't be by Alice Munro.) ( )
1 vote Cariola | Jun 21, 2014 |
Having read the first three stories I can only say that it is difficult to read them pushing myself to read through each one. I actually liked "Chance", the second story, but now I cannot recall what I liked about it other than it was better than the titular "Runaway". I'm not even mildly interested in the characters and as a result lose track when the story shifts directions. There is nothing here that I find memorable or exciting, or anything all that funny, no unique stamp of imagination in all her safe, pedestrian language and storytelling. I can tell she has a knack for tracing the emotional lives of her characters...but then I'm not that interested in her characters.
I chose to read the penultimate story, "Tricks", and found one to my liking with a bit more kick than the others I read. I may try more from Munro in the future, but for now must conclude that her stories are not my cup of tea. ( )
  jwhenderson | Mar 13, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 60 (next | show all)
Unfortunately, her latest collection of stories, ''Runaway,'' does not represent Ms. Munro's artistry at its height. Three overlapping stories (''Chance,'' ''Soon'' and ''Silence'') provide an affecting portrait of a woman named Juliet and the harrowing trajectory of her life, but most of the entries in this volume are more stilted affairs. Instead of assuming the organic, musical form of real life, they feel like self-conscious, overworked tales, relying on awkwardly withheld secrets and O'Henryesque twists to create narrative suspense.
But suspense and purity, which are a gift to the reader, present problems for the reviewer. Basically, ''Runaway'' is so good that I don't want to talk about it here. Quotation can't do the book justice, and neither can synopsis. The way to do it justice is to read it.

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Alice Munroprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Boyce, PleukeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 140004281X, Hardcover)

Alice Munro has been accused of telling the same story over and over, and to a certain extent the characterization is true. Her subject matter is inevitably the vagaries of love between middle-aged people in some rural Canadian setting, trapped there by the combination of their desires and weaknesses. Or, if not love, then at least the mysteries of relationships as characters struggle to understand each other and themselves. But this thematic single-mindedness can hardly be considered a criticism considering Munro tells stories better than anybody else and with a level of precision matched by few. It would be like criticizing Shakespeare for writing about politics.

Runaway is no exception. The stories take place throughout Canada--northern Ontario, the Prairies, the West Coast, Stratford--and feature women and men drifting in and out of each other's orbits, pulled by forces they don't understand. In "Runaway," a woman considers leaving her husband with the help of a neighbor, but the husband has other plans. In "Chance," a woman leaves her life behind in a quest for a man she met on a train crossing the country. Their intertwined lives play out through two more stories, "Soon" and "Silence," but the path they follow is as unpredictable to the reader as it is to them. In "Trespasses," a small town's women dream of escaping their lives only to find themselves in lives they never imagined.

What really marks the stories is Munro's sense of mood. There's a sense of hidden menace or even violence everywhere in Runaway. It occasionally erupts, but always in surprising and unexpected ways, and with unintended consequences. Munro may be an old-fashioned storyteller, but she understands chaos theory well enough. The same story? Sure. But it's a damn good one. --Peter Darbyshire, Amazon.ca

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:08 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

"In Alice Munro's new collection, we find stories about women of all ages and circumstances, their lives made palpable by the subtlety and empathy of this incomparable writer." "The runaway of the title story is a young woman who, though she thinks she wants to, is incapable of leaving her husband. In "Passion," a country girl emerging into the larger world via a job in a resort hotel discovers in a single moment of stunning insight the limits and lies of that mysterious emotion. Three stories are about a woman named Juliet - in the first, she escapes from teaching at a girls' school into a wild and irresistible love match; in the second she returns with her child to the home of her parents, whose life and marriage she finally begins to examine; and in the last, her child, caught, she mistakenly thinks, in the grip of a religious cult, vanishes into an unexplained and profound silence. In the final story, "Powers," a young woman with the ability to read the future sets off a chain of events that involves her husband-to-be and a friend in a lifelong pursuit of what such a gift really means, and who really has it."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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