Only God can make a tree, and only Alice Munro can resurrect the whole Canadian north woods in brilliant, unforgettable short stories. In remote Carstairs, Ontario, the great outdoors (”the river washing out of sight, at its lowest now, among the large white stones, and the frogs and crickets singing, the dirt roads faintly shining on their way to nowhere”) reminds respectably married women of their lost freedom. With tender omniscience, Munro delineates her heroines’ melancholy compromises. Self-reliant Dorrie — ”a man had named a horse after her” — would sooner trap muskrat than wed. The foolish Bea is blind to child abuse in her own neck of the woods. Proud Maureen connives at crime to save her husband’s reputation. Munro’s prickly humor gives her saddest tales a surprising gaiety. Her sense of passing time, with its power to turn lives up-side down, gives her stories elegiac depth. This is her seventh collection, and they’re all wonderful. A
Posted October 14 1994 — 12:00 AM EDT
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