Moral Disorder Review
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Moral Disorder is a biographical novel told in short stories. The opening installment sees an elderly couple, Nell and Tig, settling down for their usual breakfast, as part of the routine they can hold onto in a world that’s becoming stranger to them by the day. The book then slips back in time to when Nell is only eleven years old, knitting a sweater for her unborn sister. From there, the stories arc into Nell’s years of growing up in an isolated area of Canada to her early career to the span of time when she and Tig became lovers and then parents—and finally back to their old age. Each story plays its part in painting a bigger picture of Nell’s life, yet, at the same time, each is strong enough to stand on its own.

The stronger stories are the ones that focus only on Nell. She seems to be a bit smaller when she has to share the emotional planks of a story with Tig’s ex-wife or Tig’s sons. One of the most revealing characters in the book is actually a horse—because Atwood is able to use the animal and Nell’s reaction to it to really expose how Nell’s heart works. Later in the book, Nell’s realtor Lillie serves a similar purpose, but it’s so craftily done that the average readers won’t spot it until they’ve put the book down.

Margaret Atwood is quite possibly the best writer of literary fiction today—and this book is an example of her incredible talent. Her ability to create complete characters in the space of so few pages is amazing. Atwood is a writer who seems to be able to connect to each of the people in her writing and give them complete emotional histories that the reader can relate to—without ever having to put the words into the text of the stories. That is what makes her different from almost anyone else writing today.

If good fiction is really about telling a story—while telling a deeper story about something different and more important at the same time—then this book is indeed good fiction. Moral Disorder is easy to read, the words almost seem to form in the reader’s head before they’re even called up from the page. Still, this is not a book for everyone. It’s not chick lit, nor is it in the mold of today’s lite pop fiction, which reads well but doesn’t stick with the reader. This book is one that will mean something to its readers long after they’ve finished it.

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