Munro’s Foreword is coy. She insists that what she has written here are “stories.” She says that “such stories [ones that are based on research into her family’s history] pay more attention to the truth of a life than fiction usually does But not enough to swear on. And the part of this book that might be called family history has expanded into fiction, but always within the outline of a true narrative.” In her effort to blend these two streams – the stories and the family history – Munro has created an odd little book. Though there are many lively characters / people in her past, her telling of their lives is anecdotal, chronological. There is little drama; time just passes.
Munro is ever the careful observer and precise writer. There’s just so much narrative here – an apparent desire to favor coverage over complexity – that it took some sustained energy and concentration to keep turning pages. There was so little of the subtle, tightly wound tension that forms so many of her stories that it was, at times, tempting to put this one down.