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Selected Stories, by Alice Munro

Second paragraph of third story ("Postcard"):
It being Wednesday the wickets in the Post Office were closed, but I had my key. I unlocked our box and took out the Jubilee paper, in Momma’s name, the phone bill, and a postcard I very nearly missed. I looked at the picture on it first and it showed me palm trees, a hot blue sky, the front of a motel with a sign out front in the shape of a big husky blond creature, lit up with neon I suppose at night. She was saying Sleep at my place— that is, a balloon with those words in it came out of her mouth. I turned it over and read, I didn’t sleep at her place though it was too expensive. Weather could not be better. Mid-seventies. How is the winter treating you in Jubilee? Not bad I hope. Be a good girl. Clare. The date was ten days back. Well, sometimes postcards are slow, but I bet what happened was he carried this around in his pocket a few days before he remembered to mail it. It was my only card since he left for Florida three weeks ago, and here I was expecting him back in person Friday or Saturday. He made this trip every winter with his sister Porky and her husband, Harold, who lived in Windsor. I had the feeling they didn’t like me, but Clare said it was my imagination. Whenever I had to talk to Porky I would make some mistake like saying something was irrevelant to me when I know the word irrelevant, and she never let on but I thought about it afterwards and burned. Though I know it serves me right for trying to talk the way I never would normally talk in Jubilee. Trying to impress her because she’s a MacQuarrie, after all my lecturing Momma that we’re as good as them.
You may have noticed that I've been on a bit of an Alice Munro binge over the last year, generated in the first place by enthusiasm from my wife. These are selected stories from her output in 1968-1994, and they are all good, some of them brilliant, observation of life in southern Ontario (particularly for women) over the decades. "Postcard", from which I've taken an excerpt above, is a particularly good one told by a woman in a doomed relationship that everyone else, including the reader, can see isn't happening. "Carried Away" is an intricate tale of a librarian, a soldier, and a decapitation. "Dance of the Happy Shades" features the discomfort afflicting the comfortable resulting from a musical performance by children with special needs. In "Fits", a woman finds her neighbours' bodies after a murder/suicide pact, but the real story is how the details become known to her community and her husband. All take you into the moment; all recommended.


This came to the top of my reading list as both the most popular non-sf fiction book and the most popular book by a woman on my unread shelves. Next in both categories is another short story collection, Tales from the Secret Annexe by Anne Frank.

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