Here’s the story that Munro keeps telling: A bright, sexually avid girl grows up in rural Ontario without much money, her mother is sickly or dead, her father is a schoolteacher whose second wife is problematic, and the girl, as soon as she can, escapes from the hinterland by way of a scholarship or some decisive self-interested act … Runaway is so good that I don't want to talk about it here. Quotation can't do the book justice, and neither can synopsis. The way to do it justice is to read it … Which leaves me with the simple instruction that I began with: Read Munro! Read Munro!
Here are eight wonderful stories – no, seven great stories and one good one. All seem at first to be about women, but they're about being human – how that condition cradles us, limits us. Most of them begin in the relatively obscure past and proceed slowly and carefully into what we might call the present … None of these stories is particularly original. There's more than a hint of Kay Boyle in ‘Passion,’ in which a young girl runs off for a few hours with a man both drunk and married, more than a hint of William Goldman in ‘Tricks,’ in which another young girl meets someone who might be the improbable man of her dreams. And ‘Trespasses,’ about the follies of a pair of old and desperately stupid hippie parents, could have been written by anyone in this literary generation. But it ain't what Munro does, to paraphrase the old song. It's the way that she does it.
Munro's tone can be bracingly dry. She has no time for those implausible feats of memory often enacted by fictional protagonists; she simply tells us, with unhesitating naturalness, about her characters' early lives, including many things which they themselves will later remember differently, if at all … The long range of Munro's stories is only made possible by her apparently effortless possession of decade beyond decade of the past, her technique being the opposite of so much information-bolstered fiction of the present: she knows that life in the past was unhampered by any sense of its future quaintness, so she doesn't explain. She gives us a past as unselfconscious as today … Munro has a genius for evoking the particular and peculiar atmosphere of relationships, their unspoken pressures and expectations.