In the most powerful of these new pieces — four or five of which seem to me to belong with the best of Munro — the central figure, usually though not always female, begins with a harsh hand dealt to her … What's impressive is that such vivid, external perceptions are complemented and balanced by a more exploratory, inwardly poetic kind of writing, which is especially evident in the three first-person stories … The lovely formal-sounding waves that fill this collection, surely Munro's best yet, are in their wise sadness the product of such attention paid.
In her new collection, Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage, showing that the impulse toward love, if not love itself, dies hard, she follows her characters’ erotic lives straight through the chemotherapy ward, into the nursing home, on into the funeral parlor … There is not one of her stories in this new book that does not put together characters with real if subtle class divisions between them. This Munro does with a neutral, unsentimental eye and limber sympathies … Because she tends toward the long story, and writes with a long view of life as well, time is both her subject and her medium, its mysteries and flukes both pondered and employed. Her narratives leap and U-turn through time, and the actual subject and emotion of a story may be deferred in such gymnastic travel, or may be multiple or latent.
The stories in her new collection, Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage, are no exception: they attest to her Chekhovian ability to create characters as real and flawed and sympathetic as people we know firsthand and to show us how those characters are shaped by love and loss and the simple passage of time … In most cases the reader is invited to sympathize with the characters, to experience their hopes and grudges as they do, so nimbly does Ms. Munro capture their passing moods and states of mind … It is tales like '’Nettles,’ ‘Family Furnishings’ and ‘Post and Beam’ that best showcase Ms. Munro's gifts as a storyteller. In them the narratives move seemingly artlessly back and forth in time, from past to present and back into memory, to give the reader the sense of an entire life.