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Summary and book reviews of Runaway by Alice Munro

Runaway

Stories

by Alice Munro

Runaway
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  • First Published:
    Oct 2004, 352 pages
    Paperback:
    Nov 2005, 352 pages

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Book Summary

Here are the infinite betrayals and surprises of love–between men and women, between friends, between parents and children–that are the stuff of all our lives.

In Alice Munro’s superb new collection, we find stories about women of all ages and circumstances, their lives made palpable by the subtlety and empathy of this incomparable writer.

The runaway of the title story is a young woman who, though she thinks she wants to, is incapable of leaving her husband. In "Passion," a country girl emerging into the larger world via a job in a resort hotel discovers in a single moment of stunning insight the limits and lies of that mysterious emotion. Three stories are about a woman named Juliet–in the first, she escapes from teaching at a girls’ school into a wild and irresistible love match; in the second she returns with her child to the home of her parents, whose life and marriage she finally begins to examine; and in the last, her child, caught, she mistakenly thinks, in the grip of a religious cult, vanishes into an unexplained and profound silence. In the final story, "Powers," a young woman with the ability to read the future sets off a chain of events that involves her husband-to-be and a friend in a lifelong pursuit of what such a gift really means, and who really has it.

Throughout this compelling collection, Alice Munro’s understanding of the people about whom she writes makes them as vivid as our own neighbors. Here are the infinite betrayals and surprises of love–between men and women, between friends, between parents and children–that are the stuff of all our lives. It is Alice Munro’s special gift to make these stories as vivid and real as our own.

The Runaway

Carla heard the car coming before it topped the little rise in the road that around here they called a hill. It’s her, she thought. Mrs. Jamieson—Sylvia—home from her holiday in Greece. From the barn door—but far enough inside that she could not readily be seen—she watched the road Mrs. Jamieson would have to drive by on, her place being half a mile farther along the road than Clark and Carla’s.

If it was somebody getting ready to turn in at their gate it would be slowing down by now. But still Carla hoped. Let it not be her.

It was. Mrs. Jamieson turned her head once, quickly—she had all she could do maneuvering her car through the ruts and puddles the rain had made in the gravel—but she didn’t lift a hand off the wheel to wave, she didn’t spot Carla. Carla got a glimpse of a tanned arm bare to the shoulder, hair bleached a lighter color than it had been before, more white now than silver-blond, and an expression ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
"Alice Munro has a strong claim to being the best fiction writer now working in North America. Runaway is a marvel." –The New York Times Book Review

The introduction, discussion questions, suggestions for further reading, and author biography that follow are intended to enhance your group’s conversation about Alice Munro’s superb new collection, Runaway. In these eight tales, we find women of all ages and circumstances, their lives made palpable by the subtlety and empathy of this incomparable writer.


Reading Guide
    "Runaway"
     
  1. Why is Sylvia so fond of Carla? Is Sylvia right, given the circumstances, to suggest that Carla leave her husband and give her the means to do so?

  2. When Carla tells her parents ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse

This is Munro's 12th book, following Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage (2001). It contains eight short stories (several of which have appeared elsewhere) that confront the facts of aging, changing, remembering, regretting and, of course, one's own mortality.   (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

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Media Reviews
More - Francine Prose

Dazzling...What’s astonishing about Munro’s work is how simultaneously unsparing and forgiving it is, how willing she is to say things no one else will admit out loud. Munro hasn’t mellowed with maturity. She only grows sharper with time.

Elle Magazine Reader’s Prize

A sensitive and deeply insightful writer, Munro renders hauntingly realistic characters with an unflinching eye.

Fort Worth Star Telegram

Another carefully calibrated collection about [Munro’s] favorite themes unfaithful women, fraying marriages, long-standing deceptions....Simply breathtaking.

Quill & Quire

[Runaway is] quintessential Munro at top form...Throughout the work Munro captures the defining human struggle to make sense of a capricious or shapeless reality, to reach 'the discovery that leaves everything whole.'

Vanity Fair

The great Alice Munro proves again why short-story writers bow down to her.

Publishers Weekly

Nothing is new in Munro's latest collection, which is to say that the author continues to perfect her virtuosic formula in these eight short stories, several of which previously appeared in the New Yorker.

Library Journal

Munro's new story collection will delight fans and convert those who have never before read her work. Her spare style belies the psychological depth of the stories, which feature characters running away from someone or something (often representative of the past) or telling a lie by commission or omission (another form of running away).

Booklist - Brad Hooper

Starred Review. ...although Canadian Munro does indeed write about women, her sheer perception and eloquence make her one of the foremost contemporary practitioners of the short story in English....Munro is remarkable for the ease and completeness with which she brings the world of a character into the frame, and her characteristic and greatly effective looping through time--not just connecting present and past but also indicating the future--is haunting. All this in a lovely, precise style.

Kirkus Reviews

Retrospect and resolution, neither fully comprehended nor ultimately satisfying such are the territories the masterful Munro explores in her tenth collection.....In a word magnificent.

Reader Reviews
David

An absolutely beautiful collection of art. Written with such truth that it sends shivers down your spine. Runaway is a must read.

liz

waste
This book I was excited to read at first because it was rated the book of the year. Once I read it, I instantly lost respect for the book of the year award - either that, or that year no good books came out. It was a waste of my time and of a tree.

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Beyond the Book

Alice Munro was born in 1931 in Wingham, a small town in southwestern Ontario, to a family of small farmers. She received a scholarship to the University of Western Ontario, but left before graduating in order to marry another student, James Munro. The Munros raised three daughters and for several years ran a bookshop in Victoria; they eventually divorced and Alice Munro married Gerald Fremlin, a geographer. The Fremlins divide their time between Clinton, Ontario--not far from Munro's hometown of Wingham--and Comox, British Columbia.

She is the three-time winner of the Governor General's Literary Award, Canada's highest; the Lannan Literary Award; and the W. H. Smith Award, given to Open Secrets as the best ...

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