hateship friendship courtship loveship marriage

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review hateship, friendship, courtship, loveship, marriage by alice munro

The title of Alice Munro’s new collection seems aggressive and awkward at first, but it quickly pulls the reader into the “game” Munro is playing in these nine stories. The game, as explained in the title story, is played by two girls in an Ontario bedroom in the 1940s: write out your own name and then the name of a boy you fancy, cancel all the duplicated letters, then count the rest on your fingers saying, “Hateship, friendship, courtship, etc.,” until you reach the verdict about your future with that boy. (Try it out with partners past and present; it’s quite intriguing.)

How do relationships happen? Are they really as arbitrary as this child’s game would indicate? Or are they fated? And how do our chosen relationships with friends and lovers stack up against the ones we do not choose, with the family we’re born into and the children we bear? These have been Munro’s questions since the beginning of her extraordinary writing career in the 1950s, and they continue to fascinate and challenge both her and her readers.

Having just passed her 70th birthday, Munro might be expected to turn her formidable talents toward the subject of old age. But only the last story in the collection, “The Bear Came Over the Mountain,” explicitly does so. In it, a professor struggles with having to commit his lovely, Alzheimer’s-afflicted wife to a care facility, and then struggles with his jealousy and loneliness as she becomes close to one of the male patients. Munro is so often described as a master of psychological insight, which is indisputable, but a story like “Bear” also indicates her expertise at plotting, with surprising (yet totally plausible) twists on every page.

Two stories involve characters who end their own lives because of incurable illnesses. And one of the most memorable stories, “Floating Bridge,” takes the reader through the day on which the

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