On a clear day, you could see 'America' from Edinburgh's Castle Rock u or so said Alice Munro's great-great-great-grandfather, James Laidlaw, when he had drink taken. Then, in 1818, Laidlaw left the parish of 'no advantages', of banked Presbyterian emotions and uncanny tales u where, like his more famous cousin James Hogg, he was born and bred u and sailed to the new world with his family. This is the story of those shepherds from the Ettrick Valley and their descendants, among them the author herself. They were a Spartan lot, who kept to themselves; showing off was frowned on, and fear was commonplace, at least for femalesa But opportunities present themselves for two strong-minded women in a ship's close quarters; a father dies, and a baby vanishes en route from Illinois to Canada; another story hints at incest; childhood is short and hazardous. This is family history where imperfect recollections blur into fiction, where the past shows through the present like the tracks of a glacier on a geological map. First love flowers under an apple tree while lust rears its head in a barn; a restless mother with ideas beyond her station declines painfully; a father farms fox fur and turkeys; a clever girl escapes to college and then into a hasty marriage. Beneath the ordinary landscape there's a different story u evocative, frightening, sexy, unexpected, gripping. Alice Munro tells it like no other.
"A collection that sees her delving even deeper and with glittering expertise into a fictional terrain she has made her own for 40 years now" -- Peter Kemp * Sunday Times *
"The pre-eminent master of the short story... all delivered by her spare, wonderful prose" -- David Mattin * Independent on Sunday *
"If there is one writer who proves that the short story should never be deemed the uninspiring younger sibling of the novel, it is Munro" -- Melissa McClements * Financial Times *
"This is a deeply moving and contemplative book. If it is a valediction, then it is a magnificent one" -- Mary Morrissy * Irish Times *
"Mesmerising and cleverly interlinked, these stories are well balanced - neither overly inventive nor stolidly factual. Ms Munro's light touch and her sensitive embellishment of the truth result in a book that is illuminated by the patterns of life repeating themselves over the years" * Economist *