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Alice Munro has been a favorite of mine since my teen years, as I voraciously read her short stories and Margaret Atwood's novels, poe and short stories. Since then, I have tried to keep up with both authors, and was pleased to see this audiobook available for review. Listening to this collection of short stories was like meeting an old friend after many years apart. The transition from the written word to the listened text was not difficult in this case: Ms. Munro's words and style are her own. The rich descriptions – of people, places, thoughts, have not changed much since I read her stories for the first time. Yet, these descriptions do not become repetitive; she is instead able to create and write about new people, new situations, new experiences.
I was immediately reminded me that Ms. Munro is one of those authors who can truly write short stories. They are not an easy task, but she makes them come alive, although sometimes when one story concludes, I do find myself wondering and wishing, for just a bit more. I was also reminded of how she can bring her characters fully to life – in the reader's (or listener's) imagination, all the characters can be seen, heard, and felt. The first story includes a sudden twist that certainly did take me by surprise, in spite of the brief description on the box. The personalities within that story, the newfound insanity of one person, and the unknown strength of another, are amazing.
Deep Holes was another surprise, though not as hugely tragic as the earlier story. Deep Holes chronicles a family, from parents with small children, through change: injuries, death, growing up, making decisions, and livelihoods. An interesting ending, and I found myself cheering the final strength of this mother. The story of a boy with a port wine birthmark, of his childhood, his growth, and his adulthood: filled with complexities, good feelings, and some not as positive, but reflective of some of the realities and weaknesses of people.
The stories are read by Kimberly Farr and Arthur Murray, who are both quite capable of bringing Alice Munro's stories to the life they deserve. They do not read together, rather are selected to read entire stories, and they are able to inflect gender and emotions into their voices. I never felt confused as to who was talking, or did not get a clear picture of one of the amazing descriptions, as the voices truly complemented the words. Ms. Farr demonstrated even a variety of accents, from Russian, to Swedish, to German, as she reads the title story. This is a lengthy story, and complex, with the blend of history, women's liberation well before its time, love and loss, and important relationships and mentorships. The transition from reading Alice Munro to listening to others read her stories to me, was an easy one. Her stories and the people and events within, came alive in my mind just as they had when I read her earlier works. This was a happy reunion.
© 2010 Margaret Riley
Margaret Riley, MS, RN, Instructor, Loretto Heights School of Nursing, Regis University