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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A thesaurus exhausted of superlatives..., 20 April 2012
By 
John P. Jones III (Albuquerque, NM, USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Progress Of Love (Paperback)
To date, I've read five of Munro's collections of short stories, and have reviewed four of them, including this one. The others that are reviewed are: Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage, The Beggar Maid: Stories of Flo and Rose and Too Much Happiness. Each I've given my own "extra" rating of "six stars." Of the more than 600 reviews currently posted, I've reached for the extra dimensional star only 25 times. And now it will be four times for Munro; the only author for me to go "extra dimensional" more than once. Obviously, I am...er...ah...deeply infatuated.

Regrettably, my review cannot hope to do her justice. For me, it is the edgy intensity of her insights into the daily lives of facially very unremarkable people. Her stories twist and turn; predicting the outcome is a fool's game. There is deep clarity in the meaning of her prose, which, of course, can describe some of the complex ambiguities of the human condition. Many of her stories span a lifetime and she can pinpoint how a childhood incident affects the character when later, they are in the nursing home.

Imagine life with a given name of "Euphemia"? She is the central character in the short story that lends its title to the collection. Her mother, Marietta tried to kill herself. Marietta's sister Beryl visits, with Mr. Florence in tow. Church is part of their lives, and how much is conveyed with such details as in the after-service restaurant that they dine in, on this very special occasion (remember, way back when, going out to eat occurred on only very special occasions?) they served the mash potatoes with an ice cream scoop. Imagine your childhood home turned into hippie commune, and the man you are with jokes about the "orgies" that must have occurred in every room. 30 intense pages, of a life, with supporting characters. A takeaway at the end: "Moments of kindness and reconciliation are worth having...in the setups some people like myself have now, than they were in those old marriages, where love and grudges could be growing underground, so confused and stubborn, it must have seemed they had forever."

And what does "Lichen" really refer to in the second story? The setting is a traditional summer cottage on Lake Huron. There are the women involved in David's life, an ex-wife, a wife, a girlfriend. From the sensitive portrait of Euphemia, and the complex turns in her life, Munro goes straight to the heart of a real scumbag, in David. "Monsieur les Deux Chapeau," the third story, is Ross, a very slow-witted, perhaps retarded lover of cars. His older brother, by a year, Colin, takes care of him. Colin is married to Glenna, and their child is Lynnette. Which thread, of several, will the story follow? Is it the concern of Nancy, a French teacher, who is worried that the engine in the car Ross is re-building is too big for the crankshaft, or is it a flashback to Ross and Colin's youth, and a telling incident that defines their relationship?

And who among us parents has not had the many worries of parenthood, and fears for a child's safety? The "Miles, Montana" story involves how easily your child might drown, certainly bringing flashbacks from my more youthful parenting. "Moon at Orange Street Skating Rink" starts in youth, and sneaking into the rink without paying, and then fast forwards a half century, coming back to the town, and looking up a friend of youth who never left the small town. How and what will she remember? Tidbits, addictively enticing from a few other stories: In "Jess and Meribeth," there is the husband who was an Aussie who walked out of Burma during the war; the high school friends who split over an imaginary affair, and Jess, who studies her Dostoevsky. In "Eskimo," is the woman on the plane being abducted, and does one have an obligation to "get involved" and tell the authorities? "Circle of Prayer" deals with the reaction of teenagers to the death of a classmate in a car accident. "Queer Streak" deals with a psychotic mind, who sends her father anonymous, threatening letters.

It is the sheer range and intensity of Munro's characters, and her concise depictions of the vital details that is the ultimate strength in her writing. The Nobel Prize is still overdue. Another 6-star nudge in that direction; there is at least consistence in the repetitive evaluations.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Love and grudges growing underground, 13 Dec 2013
By 
Antenna (UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Progress Of Love (Paperback)
Alice Munro, whose short stories remind me of the work of the "groundbreaking" Katherine Mansfield, seems to break every "rule" of creative writing courses. On a rough estimate frequently up to around 13,000 words in length, stories digress and ramble from a central theme that has to be deduced, although it may remain unclear until the end. Plot is unimportant, although certain "key" events emerge in what sometimes proves to be a carefully planned order.

Tension may arise over shocking events - like a person drowning - with anticipation fed by the knowledge that the crisis may come in the middle of the tale, then may be allowed drift away to a bland, even incomplete-seeming ending, or the drama may itself be defused abruptly, or ebb away. Munro's attention flits between people's insights, often derived from the minor events of life, a strong sense of place, or scraps of conversation which have an authentic ring, as if based on comments overheard (say, young children talking) but embellished to fit the situation.

Munro explores the thoughts and relationships of ordinary people carrying out their daily tasks in smalltown Canada against the backdrop of lakes, forests, changing weather and shape-changing winter snow. She draws heavily on her own situation: father a farmer, mother a perhaps stern teacher, who fell ill when Monro was still young, possibly creating the dilemma of whether the latter should sacrifice herself to stay at home as a carer, like many of the women in her tales, or strike out to claim her freedom as Munro did. She writes of early marriages, motherhood, divorce and second partners, all part of her own life. The question of losing one's memory with age clearly interests her, together with the way we sometimes distort the truth, almost deliberately twisting memories to how we would have them be, or accepting the convenient assumptions of others and making them the truth.

I agree with the view that her stories, though clearly too short to be novellas, are packed with as much content in terms of events, relationships and insights as many novels. I was also relieved to read that Joyce Carol Oates's review did not baulk at finding some stories wanting. It is true that what seem like important aspects, like the course of a developing relationship, are glossed over, leaving the reader feeling unengaged with "central" characters. Also, some stories seem overcomplicated, appearing to cover too much as what seems to be the central theme emerges.

For me, the most successful stories are `The progress of love' about a woman's relationship with her mother whose life she has clearly made huge efforts not to imitate, `Fits' which explores people's prurient reaction to violent death and almost angry disappointment with a witness who declines to feed their ghoulish curiosity, and `White dump' about the collapse of a marriage in which a mother-in-law may have played an unwitting part, and its lifelong effects on the daughter of the union.

Readers will draw different meanings from each story, and vary in those they prefer, or believe they understand. This anthology will repay rereading in the future, when one's perceptions may have changed.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Alice Munro is one of the best short story writers of all time., 18 Sep 2013
By 
Philip Mayo - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: The Progress Of Love (Paperback)
Another beautiful compilation of stories which gently open windows through which we can better look on life and love and loss and loneliness, and ultimately understand ourselves a little more clearly and with a lot more love.
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5.0 out of 5 stars perfect, 17 Sep 2014
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The Progress Of Love
The Progress Of Love by Alice Munro (Paperback - 7 Nov 1996)
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