The Moons of Jupiter

Description

233 pages
$17.95
ISBN 0-7715-9725-8

Author

Year

1982

Contributor

Reviewed by Darlene Money

Darlene Money was a writer in Mississauga, Ontario.

Review

Alice Munro’s latest short story collection must delight everyone who has enjoyed her previous books and win the admiration of any new readers. These are stories to be read not once but many times: rich, dense, multi-faceted, full of insights to be savoured.

Unlike Who Do You Think You Are? (Macmillan, 1978), Munro’s last collection of stories linked by their central character, The Moons of Jupiter is composed of stories about several women in differing circumstances. Yet the parts blend into a unified whole derived from structure and tone.

The first and last stories, told in the first person, are clearly about the same character, though the central figure is a child in the first, “Chaddeleys and Flemings,” and both a daughter and a mother of her own daughters in the last, “The Moons of Jupiter.” At the mid-point of the book, another story told in the first person, “Bardon Bus,” has several points of connection with the opening and closing stories.

The pervasive tone of the stories serves too to link them. In spite of touches of wry humour and even occasional comedy, the dominant tone is a nostalgic sadness. Munro’s central characters are women of various ages (though most are in their forties and fifties) who are resigned to the gap between what might have been and what is, or what once was and what now remains. “Hard-Luck Stories,” the title of one of the tales, could be the subtitle of the book. But though there is acceptance of life’s defeats and little if any joy, there is no despair either. Munro’s women are resilient; they don’t give up easily. Rejected by their lovers, losing their looks in middle age, they face the future with a semblance of hope. The woman in “Bardon Bus” describes the process:

There is a limit to the amount of misery and disarray you will put up with, for love ...

When you start really letting go this is what it’s like. A lick of pain, furtive, darting up where you don’t expect it. Then a lightness. The lightness is something to think about. It isn’t just relief. There’s a queer kind of pleasure in it, not a self-wounding or malicious pleasure, nothing personal at all. It’s an uncalled-for pleasure in seeing how the design wouldn’t fit and the structure wouldn’t stand, a pleasure in taking into account, all over again, everything that is contradictory and persistent and unaccommodating about life....I think there’s something in us wanting to be reassured about all that .... (pp. 127-28)

It is, at least in part, this desire in all of us to be reassured to which Alice Munro’s finely crafted stories appeal, and her grateful readers experience the “pleasure” afforded by stories “taking into account ... everything that is contradictory and persistent and unaccommodating about life.”

Citation

Munro, Alice, “The Moons of Jupiter,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 21, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/38611.