Alice Munro’s Runaway

Every once in a while I come across a book that I consider a keeper – that is, a book that I know I will return to again and again over the course of my lifetime.  Alice Munro’s Runaway is one such book.  I read it some time ago and now return to it again.  The fact that it is a short story collection makes it the kind of material that is suitable for reading when I am busy with life and need a diversion for an hour or two only.  It is a group of stories that look at different ways of defining what a “Runaway” is.

I recently read two of the stories: “Silence” – about a mother waiting to hear from a daughter who has run off to join a commune – and, “Passion” – about a young girl not ready to make a commitment to a young man.

Munro, who won the Giller Prize for this collection, has the ability to get inside the heads of those characters she writes about.    She does such a good job of describing their thoughts and actions that she evokes empathy from the reader for each character.  It is as if we are there with them and we can feel their anxiety.

“Silence” was especially poignant for me at this stage in my life.  As I read it I kept thinking of the pain the mother must be feeling while she waits to hear from her daughter.  I wanted to shake her and say, “stop waiting!  Go after her!  Be proactive!”  But I imagine how such an event might affect me in the same manner as it did her if it happened with my child.

Runaway by Alice Munro (2004), Penguin Canada.  ISBN # 0-14-305071-0, paperback, 335 pages.

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