by Alice Munro
Knopf, 2013. 319 pgs. Fiction
The Nobel Prize Committee for Literature has made it abundantly clear that the prize is unlikely to go to an American in the foreseeable future, shallow and self-serving as we are. Fortunately, they did not exclude Canadians and Alice Munro won this year's award to great and well-deserved acclaim. Though this collection sounds and looks like it might be a sentimental collection about the joys of living, it is anything but. "Dear" in this title often means costly - almost more than one can afford. Again and again her low-key, commonplace characters manage to destroy their own happiness or avoid it instinctively, for fear of the responsibility or for fear of losing the lives they know, happy or not. In "Amundsen," a young woman travels to a tuberculosis sanatorium where against all odds she may have found her true love--or not. "Haven" recounts the miserable life of a woman whose husband makes their home anything but a haven. The last four stories of the book are reflective of, and perhaps derived from, Munro's own life. A sort of benediction, since she has announced her retirement from writing. But maybe not--though tired of the solitary writer's life, she still gets "ideas."