It’s rare that short fiction collections make it into print, much less
onto bestseller lists. So when I see one pop up there I tend to sit up and take
notice. And when the author is Alice Munro, I know before I even read it that
I would like to help it stay up there in the lists.
This book wholly deserves its status. When I finished it, I felt pretty much
the same way I felt the last time I read an Alice Munro book—sort of dazed
but happy. Like I was waking up from a really good dream and couldn’t quite
remember all the details, but wanted to recapture them one by one. And, as a
writer, wanted to figure out how she does it.
Munro roots each story firmly in a place (mostly Ontario and Vancouver) and
lets you get to know a set of charac
ters in the middle of pivotal parts of their
lives. She fully defines her characters and the events they encounter in a concrete,
spare style that perfectly balances the particular and the universal. She leaves
you feeling like you’ve managed to drop into people’s heads while
they’re in the middle of—or remembering—one of the most defining
moments of their lifetimes. She delivers intact emotional snapshots of her characters.
As for the theme of this particular collection, the title (taken from a girlhood
game played in the first story) says it all. It’s about relationships—some
that work and some that don’t, but all intriguing.
This book may not be the right one for you if you’re looking for heart-stopping
action. It’s more the type of book you’d like if you enjoy getting
to know all sorts of people and finding out what makes them, and their relationships,
tick. It’s a perfect book to read and reflect on in short sections before
going to sleep; a book to slide into good dreams with.