Caves paved with linoleum

Remember those book banners whose knickers were all twisted up over this collection? I bet this week’s stories, “Baptizing” and “Epilogue: The Photographer”, really got them going.

Del has ::whispers:: met a boy.

She’s still sorting out what that means. She’s still unsure what it means to be a boy.

“He could not do otherwise; he was what he seemed. I, whose natural boundaries were so much more ambiguous, who soaked up protective coloration wherever it might be found, began to see that it might be restful to be like Jerry.”

And she’s equally uncertain what it means to be a girl, what limitations and possibilities exist for her.

“I wanted men to love me, and I wanted to think of the universe when I looked at the moon. I felt trapped, stranded; it seemed there had to be a choice where there couldn’t be a choice.”

And the instruction that she receives from her boyfriend’s mother doesn’t sit quite right with her. In fact, his mother’s suggestion that Del get herself fitted for a diaphragm rankles Del.

Certainly it doesn’t fit with what her own mother would have offered as advice, with what Del’s mother would have thought appropriate for a girl, for a woman.

“ firmly was she convinced that sex was something no woman — no intelligent woman — would ever submit to unless she had to. I really liked that better. It seemed more fitting, in a mother, than Jerry’s mother’s preposterous acceptance, indecent practicality.”

It’s all a bit unsettling.

And then Del meets ::whispers:: another boy.

And it’s more than unsettling: it tosses all those ideas about girlhood and womanhood to the proverbial winds.

In these stories, as in the rest of 1971’s Lives of Girls and Women (and the author’s first collection, Dance of the Happy Shades), Del simply has to make her own way. It’s ordinary and extraordinary, all at once.

“People’s lives, in Jubilee as elsewhere, were dull, simple, amazing and unfathomable — deep caves paved with kitchen linoleum.”

The Flats Road; Heirs of the Living Body MAR9
Princess Ida; Age of Faith MAR16
Changes and Ceremonies; Lives of Girls and Women MAR23
Baptizing; Epilogue: The Photographer (above)

Up next: 1974’s Something I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You
** Dates to be determined following Orange Prize Season**
Something I’ve Been Meaning To Tell You; Material
How I Met My Husband;  Walking on Water
Forgiveness in Families; Tell Me Yes or No; The Found Boat
Executioners; Marrakesh; The Spanish Lady
Winter Wind; Memorial; The Ottawa Valley



  1. Buried In Print June 2, 2014 at 2:58 pm - Reply

    Commenting after rereading Sheila Munro’s Lives of Mothers & Daughters (2001): “The section that gave her the most difficulty, the one she worked on ‘about six times as hard as the rest of the novel,’ was the book’s epilogue, ‘The Photographer’. At first she didn’t believe she could bring herself to do it – to end with Del growing up to be the writer looking back and trying to make sense of her experience – thinking it would be ‘boring and cliched.’ Then, once she started working on it, she found she couldn’t leave it out. She was writing and rewriting it over several months, even sending off another ‘final’ last page after the manuscript had been mailed to the publishers.”

  2. Buried In Print April 9, 2011 at 5:56 pm - Reply

    Cookie – If you enjoyed Runaway that much, I’d guess that you’d also really enjoy Open Secrets, not as early a work as the one above, but earlier than TMH. Perhaps you’ll stumble upon a copy.

  3. anothercookiecrumbles April 3, 2011 at 5:18 pm - Reply

    I love Alice Munro – well, the one collection that I have read by her, anyway (Runaway). There’s just something simple and plain and to-the-point about her writing, but it’s still beautiful, poetic and thought-provoking.

    I’d love to read this someday, but the next collection that I’ll be reading is Too Much Happiness (simply because it’s happily sitting on my bookshelf!).

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