336 pages
ISBN 0-7710-6506-X
DDC C813'.54





Reviewed by Sarah Robertson

Sarah Robertson is the editor of the Canadian Book Review Annual.


Runaway offers stunning confirmation of the critical consensus,
articulated by a Newsday critic, that Alice Munro “just keeps getting
better and better.” In a rare interview, Munro once commented: “The
complexity of things—the things within things—just seems to be
endless. I mean nothing is easy, nothing is simple.” The eight short
stories in Runaway, some of which were originally published in The New
Yorker, are synopsis-defying explorations of themes that have
preoccupied the author in previous collections—self-deception, the
elusiveness (and subjectivity) of truth, ambivalent parenting, the
tension between social obligation and self-assertion, to name but a few.

Several of these tales, and especially those (like “Powers” and the
three linked stories “Chance,” “Soon,” and “Silence”) that
span several decades, document ego-deflating journeys from innocence to
experience, from beginnings filled with promise to endings that—like
much of life itself—are neither happy nor tragic. In “Silence,” a
woman is abandoned by her grown daughter for uncertain reasons. The
story’s offhand conclusion, which underlines the banality of the
woman’s loss, epitomizes Munro’s tough-minded universe: “She keeps
on hoping for a word from Penelope, but not in any strenuous way. She
hopes as people who know better hope for undeserved blessings,
spontaneous remissions, things of that sort.”

In truth, as Jonathan Franzen noted in his extraordinary review of
Runaway in the New York Times, “Quotation can’t do the book justice,
and neither can synopsis. The way to do it justice is to read it.”


Munro, Alice., “Runaway,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 21, 2024,