Though the plotlines of Alice Munro’s fiction fade from memory, readers are left with a lasting impression of the landscapes she describes. This Pulitzer Prize-winning author masterfully evokes the relationship between people and the places they inhabit in her latest collection of short stories, Dear Life.
Some of Munro’s settings are alienating: the party in opening story ‘To Reach Japan’ is one such example. A poet attends the soiree hoping to mingle with like-minded writers but finds that at such gatherings ‘nobody is safe’. Some locations prove to be physically dangerous, as with the gravel pit of an abandoned project in ‘Gravel’, in which a young girl drowns.
The book’s title can be taken in two ways: it may be that existence is something precious to be protected, or it may be a salutation, as if one is reaching out for hopeful conversation. Munro’s vivid characters reach out for family, understanding and forgiveness; if and when they find them, they hold fast.