Reviews for Dear Life : Stories: Library Edition

AudioFile Reviews 2012 December
Alice Munro has written another extraordinary collection of short stories. Both Kimberly Farr and Arthur Morey lend intuitive pacing to their nuanced performances of these works. The listener becomes steeped in the meaning and beauty of Munro's stories by virtue of the performers' deliberate pacing. They give each one the focus that is essential for the concentrated prose of the short story genre. Further, they convey the sense of profundity that these stories evoke with eloquent and clear deliveries. Some of the stories take place in the author's home territory of Canada during the period of her childhood. However, the collection's timeless and intimate subjects will resonate with anyone listening to these perilous journeys of life. A.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2012, Portland, Maine

BookPage Reviews 2013 March
Into the tunnel of love

The Last Girlfriend on Earth, Simon Rich’s latest collection of short stories about love, sex, commitment and control, is wonderfully funny, insistently clever and light and heavy at the same time. The lightness comes when you grin and laugh as Rich sets up wickedly witty situations—Mother Theresa, Hitler, Zeus and Santa Claus make cameos; an unused condom tells his life story; and God doesn’t finish creating the earth because his girlfriend demands more attention. However, underneath it all, Rich is talking about the perils of passion, the slings and arrows of love and courtship (though that seems an old-fashioned term for what goes on here), and the messier side of messing around. These are very short short stories, some seemingly just dashed off. But short can be far more difficult than long, and Rich knows how to dissect the bumpy, obstacle-ridden course of love with quick, sure, acerbic strokes. As he reads his stories in his distinctive, youthful voice, you can’t help but hope that his understanding of boy meets girl, gets girl, loses girl comes more from observation than personal experience.

You’d think that with the third season of “Downton Abbey” rolling along, another “Upstairs, Downstairs”-esque saga would be overkill. Yet listening to Habits of the House, the first installment of Fay Weldon’s new Edwardian-era trilogy, is more like allowing yourself to polish off a pint of Häagen Dazs Belgian chocolate, an indulgence and slightly guilty pleasure—but this one without the calories. So, settle in for a good, entertaining comedy of manners as Katherine Kellgren reads with all the appropriate accents. On the morning of October 24, 1899, the Earl of Dilberne, a gambling buddy of the Prince of Wales, and his beautiful, socially prominent wife, still in London though the season has ended, discover they’re on the brink of financial ruin. The easiest way out is to find a wealthy wife for their dilettante son, their suffragette daughter not being marriage material. Enter Minnie O’Brien, a Chicago meat-packing heiress, and her gauche but likable mother, located by a coalition of willing downstairs servants. What ensues has charm, humor and interesting historical detail. There’ll be another helping served up soon.

Alice Munro, now 81 and surely one of the most revered short story writers living, says that Dear Life, her new collection, will be her last. Let’s hope not. How Munro does what she so eloquently and elegantly does is elusive. You get so caught up in her narratives that you have to go back again and again (and that’s a pleasure) to try and figure out how she can capture so much in each story, how the contours of an entire life can be conjured up, how the flick of a sentence can imply possibility or tragedy, how she moves seamlessly back and forth in time. Most of the stories here (and in much of her writing) are set in small, rural Canadian towns not unlike the one Munro grew up in. And the last four pieces are autobiographical, perhaps the closest thing to memoir she’ll allow. They show us Munro as a child and young woman and let us see how her own memories and distance from events shape her telling of them. Two accomplished narrators, Kimberly Farr and Arthur Morey, make this audio version a gem.

Copyright 2012 BookPage Reviews.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2013 February #4

This audio production presents 14 new stories from Munro, whom Booklist called "the best short-story writer in English today." Despite the author's often-brilliant source material, Farr and Morey's performances are uninspired. There is a quiet desperation to Munro's characters, a sense that the "dear life" of the title does not refer to life's beauty, but to its harried restlessness--as in, "holding on for dear life." In conveying this desperation, both narrators lack subtlety, though Morey does a standout job with the laconic protagonist of "Train," a man who repeatedly hides from conflict and self-exposure. Because the stories and characters are so different from one another--sharing only their Canadian settings--this audio edition might have benefited from additional narrators. As presented here, the stories and characters bleed into one another, the narrators' voices barely changing from one piece to the next. A Knopf hardcover. (Nov.)

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