By Alice Munro
Everyman’s Library, $26.00, 559 pages
Carried Away by award-winning Alice Munro is a collection of a stand-alone stories which are also linked to the others, carrying characters, themes, and settings throughout. Many are set in rural Canada, giving a strong sense of place. Themes of family and the roles we play within them – victim, martyr, aggressor – are also present. Plots and characters also weave their way through. A few stories are set in WWI small-town Canada, with characters of returning veterans, librarians, and local “poetesses.”
“It was anarchy she was up against–a devouring muddle. Sudden holes and impromptu tricks and radiant vanishing consolations.”
Magical realism is also present, as what and who seemed real and stable shifts as the narrator’s perspective shifts. “The Albanian Virgin” concerns a young tourist, “Lottar,” kidnapped and acculturated within a strange tribal community, told by an old woman, Charlotte, which may or may not be true and may or may not have happened to her. Many of the stories, besides being linked with other stories are also stories within stories: Charlotte tells the tale of Lottar on her deathbed, and Charlotte herself is part of the story of her neighbor and her troubled marriage.
Because of this linked, layered nature, the stories seem both small and huge: deep themes within small moments, reflected and reflected again.
Reviewed by Stacia Levy