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The Love of a Good Woman

by Alice Munro

Library Journal In the title story, set in the early spring of 1951, three young boys on a lark make a grim discovery?the drowned body of the town optometrist. Their secret knowledge gives them a sense of purpose and self-importance. But this secret pales beside the darker one that emerges late in the story of how the man came to die. In "Before the Change," a woman recovering from the breakup of her engagement to a theology student is filled with conflicting emotions on a visit home with her father, the town abortionist. In the closing story, "My Mother's Dream," the pregnant widow of a World War II pilot is left to cope with his dotty family. In their home on her own with an irritable baby on an impossibly hot, pre-air-conditioning day, she is forced to close all the windows lest the neighbors assume she is an unfit mother. Munro's stories are always afforded the luxury of space and the weight of detail. Like carefully preserved home movies, they capture moments of the past that are at once intensely recognizable and profoundly revealing. These exquisite stories, some never before published, are highly recommended. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 7/98.]?Barbara Love, Kingston Frontenac P.L., Kingston, Ont.

Copyright Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Library Journal Eight new stories; a 50,000-copy first printing.

Copyright Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Again mining the silences and dark discretions of provincial Canadian life, Munro shines in her ninth collection, peopled with characters whose sin is the original one: to have eaten of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The good woman of the title story?a practical nurse who has already sacrificed her happiness to keep a deathbed promise?must choose whether to believe another moribund patient's confession or to ignore it and seize a second chance at the life she has missed. The drama of deathbed revelation is acted out, again, between a dying man and the woman at his bedside in "Cortes Island," when a stroke victim exposes his deepest secret to his part-time caretaker, in what may be the last act of intimacy left to him, and in the process puts his finger on the fault lines in her marriage. In the extraordinary "Before the Change," a young woman confronts her father with the open secret of his life and reveals the hidden facts of hers; she is unprepared, however, for the final irony of his legacy. The powerful closing story, "My Mother's Dream," is about a secret in the making, showing how a young mother almost kills her baby and how that near fatality, revealed at last to the daughter when she is 50, binds mother and daughter. Compressing the arc of a novella, Munro's long, spare stories?there are eight here? span decades and lay bare not only the strata of the solitary life but also the seamless connections and shared guilt that bind together even the loneliest of individuals. First serial to the New Yorker. (Nov.) FYI: Four of Munro's previous collections are available in Vintage paperback.

Copyright Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Book list To read Munro's stories is to enter dense woods at the height of summer, so rich are they in spiky detail, shifting patterns of light and shadow, rustlings of unseen beings, and fecund smells, but the path is easily found, and it leads to wondrous sights and surprising disclosures. It is a tribute to Munro's virtuosity and vitality that a collection of stories as rich, varied, and substantial as this one has appeared so soon after publication of her capacious Selected Stories (1996). Here, as is her wont, Munro packs each paragraph with a wealth of significant details, articulates the thoughts of a wide array of curious characters, and captures the mixed signals embedded in exchanges between women friends, husbands and wives, or children and parents. In the riveting title story, a timeless tale set in Munro-country, that is, a small town along the Canada shore of Lake Huron, Munro tells a complex story about three boys who discover a drowned optometrist and the nurse who cares for the woman who inadvertently caused his death. In "Jakarta," a woman who has dutifully married and had her first child finds herself attracted to and upset by an American acquaintance whose life seems much freer and more passionate. Each story has a distinct mood and movement as Munro roams across the Canadian and American border over the course of the last few decades, discerning exactly what is most poignant about each place, each time frame, and each heart. --Donna Seaman

From Booklist, Copyright American Library Association. Used with permission.