Open a book this minute and start reading. Don’t move until you’ve reached page fifty. Until you’ve buried your thoughts in print. Cover yourself with words. Wash yourself away. Dissolve. Carol Shields Republic of Love

“The Bear Came Over the Mountain” Alice Munro

A good ways into the story, readers meet this proclamation: “You never quite knew how such things would turn out. You almost knew, but you could never be sure.”

It is perhaps as true about “The Bear Came Over the Mountain” as it is about Grant’s predictions about his relationships with women.

But this story […]

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“Queenie” Alice Munro

Unsurprisingly, a story named for a main character is going to be preoccupied with names and identity.

It’s also the first thing readers observe Queenie saying to Chrissy, when she arrives in Toronto and is met at Union Station.

Her husband thinks it sounds like an animal’s name, so Chrissy is asked not to […]

“What Is Remembered” Alice Munro

It’s inescapable, this sense of “What Is Remembered” being an alternate version of “Tricks”. (If you want to avoid general spoilers, best not to click on that link, for you will intuit the sort of ending which that story has and thus the contrasting tone herein.)

Once again, our narrator is reflecting upon the events of the […]

“Post and Beam” Alice Munro

The details in “Post and Bean” matter. The specific itty-bitty matters of surprising consequence. Not necessarily what one sees at first glance, but what one uncovers, what the broader whole can be understood to mean.

Take the group of people in the church office. At first, a stranger to the office might think, “Oh, what […]

“Nettles” Alice Munro

Sometimes, when I begin reading an Alice Munro story, I am overwhelmed by a sense of “there it is”. It’s a feeling of immediate and undeniable recognition of familiar elements.

Like the beginning of “Nettles”, which begins with firmly rooting the reader in a time and place.

It is summer. It is 1979. The narrator […]

“Comfort” Alice Munro

While Nina was playing tennis, Lewis was killing himself. Readers learn this at the outset. Nina played; Lewis died.

Back and forth across the net, Nina volleyed and returned serves; Lewis plunged downward into first unconsciousness, then…

Into, what?

As a science teacher, who insisted that evolution be taught in classrooms despite creationists’ objections, Lewis […]

A Fainter Footprint in Fiction

Sarah Ellis’ Outside In is her seventeenth novel for young readers, and readers who discover her through this unusual work will undoubtedly be keen to investigate her backlist.

Groundwood Books, 2014

The cover captures the hint of mystery which lurks beneath the story, for Lynn encounters Blossom and immediately questions present themselves.

“Either […]

Kim Thúy’s Mãn (2013)

In discussing the different kinds of love which the Vietnamese language distinguishes between, Kim Thúy’s Ru lists thích, which means “to love by taste”.

Random House Canada, 2014

(One may also love without being in love (thuong), love passionately (yêu), love ecstatically (mê), love blindly (mù quáng), or love gratefully (tình nghīa) and it’s impossible “quite simply to […]

Nick Cutter’s The Deep (2015)

Nick Cutter’s debut, The Troop, was one of those books about which I was truly ambivalent, literally thunking the book down after a haunting and visceral scene and snatching it up again because I simply had to know what was going to happen next. I recommended it widely to friends (it’s possible that I think […]

Telling Father’s Story: A Novel and a Memoir

Khaled Hosseini’s And the Mountains Echoed and Maurice Mierau’s Detachment: An Adoption Memoir are a perfect pair.

Penguin Random House, 2014

And the Mountains Echoed begins with a story, told by a father to his son and his daughter.

“Father never felt more present to Abdullah, more vibrant, revealed, more truthful, than when […]