Alice Munro is one of the greatest contemporary writers of short stories today, and her collection “Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage” is just as deep, dark and unique as her other acclaimed writings, blazing a beautiful originality out of her seemingly commonplace subjects. The women in this book, much like the men in the fiction of John Updike, find themselves perpetually torn between domesticity and independence; between familial roots and freedom; between a connection with another and a more solitary sense of themselves as outsiders. In tracing the choices her heroines make and the fallout of their decisions, Ms. Munro has created tales that limn entire lifetimes in a handful of pages, creating novels in beautiful miniatures. Munro’s characters are fully drawn; they grow and breathe as you read, and her plots are like quilts-pieced together in compositions that please as a whole and in parts. Love and its fickle, evanescent ways provide Munro’s themes. A young woman watches her older sister handle her demanding husband along with other men; an aging man reflects on his love life while worrying about his wife’s flirtations in a nursing home.
Anyone who has read Munro understands that it is a disservice to try to explain the plots of these short stories. To say that “Nettles” is about a woman who reunites with her childhood sweetheart effectively paralyzes the story which weaves childhood dreams with cold adult realities and ultimately concedes that apparently benevolent fate can be cruel. Because of this, this review is embarrassingly short. Just know that you should read it