Alice Munro’s
Something I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You (II)
Toronto: Penguin, 1974.

I find something irresistible about a story titled “How I Met My Husband”. Not very feminist-y of me. I hope I don’t lose my secret-decoder ring for saying so.And, anyway, it’s not as though traditional readers would find this story of Alice Munro’s very satisfying.Sure, it starts with safe and honed rules for girls and women.Edie, the narrator, is fifteen and she’s away from home for the first time, working for Dr. and Mrs. Peebles on the Fifth Line, five miles out of town, taking care of their two kids, Joey 9 and Heather 7.She does what needs doing when she’s on the clock. And when she’s not, she does ordinary things, like she goes to Goderich to the movies.

She’s a good girl.

Except when she isn’t.

The traditional readers would be happy with the official version of events. Edie recognizes that there “were women just waiting and waiting by mailboxes for one letter or another”.

And to hear her husband tell it, Edie was one of those women.

“He always tells the children the story of how I went after him by sitting by the mailbox every day, and naturally I laugh and let him, because I like for people to think what pleases them and makes them happy.”

And she was.

Except when she wasn’t.

What makes Edie’s story so interesting to me is what doesn’t please, what isn’t told.

[Aside: It’s interesting to compare Edie’s experiences in this story with Valerie’s experiences in “Forgiveness in Families”. Valerie says: “I was thinking myself about changing into a different sort of person from the one I am. I do think about that.”]

On the other hand, what makes “Walking on Water” (the fourth tale in this collection) so interesting is what is told, but what isn’t understood.

Set in a nursing home near a lookout over the lake, there is a mystical side to the story, surrounding Eugene’s declaration that he can walk on the water near the Ross Point Pier.

“Eugene would chat with old people, he was a favorite with them; they saw him as a gentle ambassador from the terrible land of youth.”

Both Edie and Eugene, in their respective stories, put their faith in something that onlookers would not identify or understand. It’s left to the reader to decide whether youth is truly a terrible land after all.

Is your reading these days about what doesn’t please, what isn’t told, or what isn’t understood?

Chatter about the remaining stories in this collection:

Munro’s Something I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You (1974)
Something I’ve Been Meaning To Tell You; Material SEPT1
How I Met My Husband;  Walking on Water; Forgiveness in Families (above)
Tell Me Yes or No; The Found Boat; Executioners; Marrakesh SEPT3
The Spanish Lady; Winter Wind; Memorial; The Ottawa Valley SEPT4