I loved this book so much I decided to write my Master's Thesis in Literature on it; we've all got parents, friends, or someone we know that turn up in every one of these stories. Munro's insights into how humans deal with relationships, death, and collective community social consciousness are continually profound and eye-opening. Pay special attention to things "Gothic" in this collection as in Open Secrets: repressed sexuality, pleasurable dread, anxiety, remorse, unnatural silences....the list goes on and on. No-one better captures the paradox of connected everyday surfaces and hidden, underground nightmares than Munro.
Reading stories such as "Differently," about a woman's reminiscences and regret about the people of her past made me reflect that life turns out differently than our original aspirations. It isn't always regret, but it is rarely indifferent. As soon as I finished a story, I immediately wanted to reread it, and understand the character better. These are beautiful, gentle stories about lives that sometimes meander, sometimes change abruptly, but that are always determined by the choices and accidents of living. Munro's love, sometimes curiosity, for her characters is a privilege to experience.
Alice Munro certainly has the ability to create complex and fascinating situations, and to make them flow beautifully this way and that in time. Unfortunately, she only succeeds in using this ability about half the time. The other half, she's overly-self-serious, inaccessible, vague and flighty. Here are the stories that make the book worth checking out: Friend of My Youth, Five Points, Oranges and Apples (great story!), and Pictures of the Ice. You can skip Meneseteung and Hold Me Fast Don't Let Me Pass.
With this collection of stories, Munro secured her place as one of the best short fiction writers of our time. These are thick, meaty pieces, inhabited by characters as real as any that walk on land, as multifaceted and confused as you or I. Munro's shocking control of the English language and profound understanding of human nature make these ten stories among the most important of the twentieth century