The two intrepid sisters of the title story grapple with loss and memory on a perfect summer evening; "Impatient Griselda" explores alienation and miscommunication with a fresh twist on a folkloric classic; and "My Evil Mother" touches on the fantastical, examining a mother-daughter relationship in which the mother purports to be a witch. At the heart of the collection are seven extraordinary stories that follow a married couple across the decades, the moments big and small that make up a long life of uncommon love—and what comes after.
Loss suffuses these stories ... They’re stories that look backward ... While that perspective isn’t new for Atwood, the lens seems to have changed ... Here, people look back in grief ... The Covid invocations feel tacked on, and it’s in their somewhat unconvincing attempts at timeliness that these middle stories miss as often as they hit. They don’t feel carefully curated so much as collected from the disparate corners of Atwood’s mind ... I’d be more tempted to dwell on the puzzle of that grab bag of middle stories being sandwiched between realistic, virtuosic, elegiac linked stories if the reasoning didn’t so simply present itself: This is Atwood. This is our four-faced Janus, who’s got one face turned to the past, one to the present, one to the future and the fourth inside a spaceship, telling stories about eating horses. Long may she reign.
A dazzling mixture of stories that explore what it means to be human while also showcasing Atwood's gifted imagination and great sense of humor ... These stories, which taken together feel like a mosaic novella more than literary bookends for a collection, offer a deep, heartfelt, engrossing look at the minutiae of life ... These tales show Atwood's characteristic insight and intellect while also putting on full display her ability to make us laugh, her chronicler's eye for detail, and her unparalleled imagination ... Touching, smart, funny, and unique in equal measure. Atwood, who's always had her finger on the pulse of modern society, tackles everything from love and the afterlife to the importance of language and the pandemic ... Showcases Atwood's imagination and her perennial obsession with getting to the core of what makes us human while dishing out plenty of entertainment and eye-opening revelations along the way.
The stories not featuring Tig and Nell are more of a mixed bag, but they’re all quick reads ... Fans of the TV version of The Handmaid’s Tale may not flock to read Old Babes in the Wood, but Atwood purists will find enough here to like.