Alice Munro is considered one of the modern masters of the short story.
Alice Munro Short Stories
“Friend of My Youth”
The narrator recounts the life of Flora Grieves. She lived on a farm with her sister, Ellie, and her brother-in-law, Robert. She tells us how the house and work was divided, how Ellie and Robert came to be married, and how Flora responded to the many changes in her life.
This story can be read in the preview of Friend of My Youth. (10% in)
“The Love of a Good Woman”
A museum in Walley has a box of optometrist’s instruments that were owned by D. M. Willens, who drowned in the Peregrine River decades ago. It was found by an anonymous donor. Three boys who were out exploring on a spring morning first spotted the car and the body submerged in the river. In another thread, Enid is providing homecare for Mrs. Quinn, a young woman dying of kidney failure.
This longer story can be read in the preview of Family Furnishings: Selected Stories. (13% into Kindle preview)
“Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage”
Johanna goes to the train station and arranges to send a load of furniture to Gdynia, and to buy a ticket for herself to the same place. Johanna is the housekeeper for Mr. McCauley and his granddaughter, Sabitha. Sabitha’s mother is dead and her father, Ken, lives elsewhere. Johanna and Ken have corresponded a bit through Sabitha’s letters. Johanna is making big plans although nothing definite has been agreed to.
Some of this story can be read in the preview of Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage. (20% into Kindle preview)
Carla and Clark live in a mobile home. Their neighbor, Sylvia, returns from a trip to Greece. Carla stays out of sight in the barn. She wonders if Clark knows yet. He has a temper and has had run ins with several people in the area. Carla’s worried about her goat, Flora, that’s been missing two days. Sylvia calls for Carla to come help with the house tomorrow. Clark has been ruminating on a scheme for a while and he wants Carla to start it.
Some of this story can be read in the preview of Runaway. (12% in)
Doree, twenty-three years old, works as a chambermaid at a motel away from her old town. She enjoys her work, and no one seems to know her story there. She occasionally sees Mrs. Sands to talk about what happened. Doree is on her way to visit Lloyd; it takes her three buses to get there. The last two times she went, he wouldn’t see her. She doesn’t know if she’ll keep going back. She met Lloyd when she was sixteen and her mother was dying.
Some of this story can be read in the preview of Too Much Happiness. (Go into Hardcover preview, then select Kindle)
Nita, sixty-two, lives alone now that her husband, Rich, who was almost twenty years older, has died. They thought she would be the first to die, as she was diagnosed with cancer. Sympathy for her has fallen off because Rich was buried cheaply without a funeral service, as he wanted. She’s very aware of his absence and hasn’t gone through his things yet. They fell in love while Rich was married to his first wife, Bett. One day, when Nita opens the door for some air, she gets a visit.
Rose lives with her father and stepmother in a poor area. Her stepmother relates the story of a local man who gets attacked. She also threatens Rose with a “royal beating.”
“The Bear Came Over the Mountain”
Fiona, seventy-years-old, is preparing to leave home for good. A little over a year ago, she started leaving little notes around the house identifying the contents of drawers. Her husband, Grant, takes her to the facility in January. Fiona remembers many things from her past so he wonders if she really needs to go.
“Boys and Girls”
The narrator relates a time from her childhood. Her father is a fox farmer; he raises foxes , skins them, and then sells the skins to fur traders. The narrator helps her father with some of the related chores. She prefers this work to helping around the house. She keeps hearing that she will soon do more around the house and behave in a more girl-like way.
Marlene, the adult narrator, tells the story of her time at camp with her friend Charlene when they were about ten-years-old. While sharing information with each other, Marlene tells her about Verna, a girl two or three years older who moved in next to her. Verna was different; she was in a special class at school. Marlene didn’t like her. Some unstated tragedy had occurred in her childhood.
“Day of the Butterfly”
Helen remembers Myra, a girl from her Grade Six class. Myra is the target of ridicule and bullying, and doesn’t play with the other girls. One day Helen catches up with Myra as they’re walking to school. They have a friendly talk. Helen is worried that this small bond with Myra will hurt her social standing.
“The Found Boat”
The Wawanash River overflows its banks every spring. Eva and Carol wade into the water with some boys from school. They find a damaged rowboat. The boys lug it to a backyard and fix it up.
Nita’s husband, Rich, just died at eighty-one. She’s sixty-two. People checked in on her at first. She doesn’t want any interference; she hasn’t even told everyone about the death. Rich died outside the hardware store. Nita didn’t have a proper funeral for him. Nita had been diagnosed with cancer. She was supposed to die first.
“How I Met My Husband”
The narrator, Edie, tells the story of her first job. She was fifteen. The Peebles bought a house outside of town. She helped look after the children. One day a plane flew right over the house and landed across the street. The pilot, Chris Watters, goes from town to town giving plane rides for a dollar. Edie meets him when the family is away.
“I was fifteen and away from home for the first time. My parents had made the effort and sent me to high school for a year, but I didn’t like it.”
“Miles City, Montana”
A wife, husband, and their two young daughters are driving to visit the grandparents in Ontario. The wife, who is the narrator, remembers an incident from her childhood when a local boy drowned. During the drive, there are some squabbles and the family gets very hot, causing them to look for a cool spot to take a break.
“Mrs. Cross and Mrs. Kidd”
Mrs. Cross and Mrs. Kidd live at Hilltop Home, a nursing facility. They have known each other for eighty years. They have stayed fairly close, even though there are many differences between them. Their daily routine changes with the arrival of a new resident, Jack, a fifty-nine-year-old who can’t speak due to a stroke.
“An Ounce of Cure”
The narrator remembers her first love as a teenager. She dated Martin Collingwood for two months before he broke up with her. She is in misery for months. When she gets a job babysitting for the Berrymans, she finds some liquor and decides to have a drink.
Prue lived with Gordon when he left his wife for sixteen months. After he got a divorce, they lived together on and off. Prue is likable and looks on the bright side, not taking the disappointments of life and relationships too seriously. The possibility arises to continue her relationship with Gordon.
A thirteen-year-old girl is going to be attending a Christmas dance. Her mother is making her a new red dress, but she is becoming self-conscious about wearing homemade clothes. She is awkward and uncomfortable at school and doesn’t expect to do well in the social atmosphere of the dance.
“The Shining Houses”
Mrs. Fullerton has lived in the same house for over forty years. She is standoffish with her neighbors. She sells eggs and is self-sufficient. Her house is old and ill-kept. Newer houses are being built around it, and her neighbors want her house renovated or torn down.
“Thanks for the Ride”
Two young guys drive into a small town looking for some girls to spend the weekend with. They meet Adelaide and then go to the home of her friend Lois, and meet her family.
Jackson is on a train nearing his hometown. He’s returning after the war. As the train slows for a turn, he jumps off and starts walking in the opposite direction. He happens upon a farmhouse owned by Belle. She’s there alone; her place is run-down. He agrees to build a new horse trough to repay her hospitality.
“The Turkey Season”
The narrator looks back on her time as a fourteen-year-old working a Christmas job at the Turkey Barn. She was a gutter. The foreman, Herb, taught her the job. He was a good worker and a bit of a mystery.
The narrator remembers an incident from when she was about ten. She and her mother went to a dance at a house on their street. Her mother wasn’t as satisfied with life as her father was. She didn’t forge social connections easily—she was pushy and used unusual expressions. There are a few people at the dance who stay on the narrator’s mind for some time.
“Walker Brothers Cowboy”
After going bankrupt, the Jordan family moves to the poor side of town. One day the narrator, a young girl, goes with her father, now a door to door salesman, on some of his sales calls.
The narrator is going to college. She lives in a rooming house with a few other students. Every other Sunday she goes to dinner with her mother’s bachelor cousin, Earnest. Her new roommate, Nina, has a complicated history. Her movements are watched by Mrs. Winner on behalf of Mr. Purvis, who has helped her out.
“A Wilderness Station”
Simon and George Herron, brothers, go into the wilderness of Huron to set up their own home. They clear the land and build a log shanty. It’s a difficult life with no luxuries. When they finish, Simon thinks it’s time to get a wife to look after the domestic duties. With his minister’s endorsement, he writes an orphanage asking if there are any marriageable girls who’d be interested. That’s how he meets Annie.