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Dear Life
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2013 Book Discussions > Dear Life: Stories - In Sight of the Lake (December 2013)

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message 1: by Sophia, Honorary Moderator (new) - rated it 3 stars

Sophia Roberts | 1324 comments Mod
In what ways does the story most accurately represent the disorientation and confusion that come with ageing and memory loss?


Lily (Joy1) | 2226 comments Is this a story of the dream of a patient (Nancy) in a nursing home?

If so, it seems to me an almost disturbingly lucid dream, at least until just before waking.


LindaJ^ (LindaJS) | 1837 comments I'm with you Lily. I believed the narrator was experiencing short term memory loss - I find myself going to get something in the next room only to arrive and not remember what it was, so it seemed real to me. The scary part was when she got stuck in the home, as it did not seem possible there was no one around. Then we find out that may be the realist part of a dream, as she is a patient in the home.


Terry Pearce | 763 comments Mod
I loved this one. Reading back over it after finishing it I was struck by the skill with which Munro put the story together to allow for it to be real events as we were reading it, but for it also to make perfect sense as a dream or a turn, the product of a mind slipping away from her, when it is revealed that this may be the case.

Everything is so vague and fits together so strangely, and as we are reading it we believe that this is because she is starting to lose her faculties now, as she approaches the possibility of medical care for her condition, but in fact it is because none of it is real, and as in dreams, things float along in strange ways and she does things and experiences things that don't make perfect sense, things that are a pastiche of resonances, a patchwork of impressions, memories, concerns and trains of thoughts, made (as much as possible) sense of by appearing as a sequence of events.


Lily (Joy1) | 2226 comments It's as if the patient Nancy is examining what has been happening to her that brought her to being a patient. It seemed a brilliant way of telling what must be part of the frightening path to dementia for at least some, as they sometimes recognize what is happening to them. (And sometimes, almost blessedly, they don't always seem to recognize, but just are as they are.)


Daniel | 738 comments Mod
Sophia wrote: "In what ways does the story most accurately represent the disorientation and confusion that come with ageing and memory loss?"

Nancy is trapped in the lobby at the end of the story, shortly before she wakes (or regains her mental faculties, or however one might interpret the twist at the end). I thought this was a fantastic analogy to or representation of becoming trapped in one's own mind and unable to find any means of reaching the outside world.


message 7: by Lily (last edited Dec 14, 2013 10:53AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lily (Joy1) | 2226 comments Daniel wrote: "...I thought this was a fantastic analogy to or representation of becoming trapped in one's own mind and unable to find any means of reaching the outside world. ..."

Or even of ultimately being trapped as an extended care patient in her own bed, unable to reach beyond it. The seeming movement between acute self-awareness and total lack thereof is what particularly haunts me about this story.


LindaJ^ (LindaJS) | 1837 comments This story brought one of my Aunts to mind. She has MS. When she began to lose control of her body, her mind remained sharp and she was able to explain how it felt not to be able to stop from falling while carrying two bags of groceries. I think her mind remained fairly sharp even when she could not get the words she want to say to come out her mouth. She was trapped in her mind by a non-cooperative body.


message 9: by Sophia, Honorary Moderator (new) - rated it 3 stars

Sophia Roberts | 1324 comments Mod
At what point do you understand that the narrator is having a dream?


message 10: by Lily (last edited Dec 17, 2013 09:48AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lily (Joy1) | 2226 comments Sophia wrote: "At what point do you understand that the narrator is having a dream?"

The first inkling is here, but I had to be told:

"There is a woman here whose name is Sandy...."

"'You must have had a dream,' she says. 'What did you dream about now?'"

Munro, Alice (2012-11-13). Dear Life: Stories (p. 232). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

It was like a thunderclap, and my mind had to sort of revisit the whole story and mutter "of course.... But, how did Munro manage to pull this off? The clues are here, but still..."

Is this another example of why Alice Munro long has had the legend of being a "writer's writer"? (I've always been a bit curious about what that appellation implies.)


Casceil | 1674 comments Mod
My reaction was very similar to Lily's. I, too, finished the story and immediately flipped back to the beginning of it to try to make sense of what I had just read.


message 12: by Sophia, Honorary Moderator (new) - rated it 3 stars

Sophia Roberts | 1324 comments Mod
Ultimately, Nancy’s confusion is the reader’s confusion. The reader can’t know for certain if Nancy’s meandering search for this doctor’s office is unfolding as described...

Does the ending feel inevitable?


message 13: by Sophia, Honorary Moderator (new) - rated it 3 stars

Sophia Roberts | 1324 comments Mod
Lily wrote: "Is this another example of why Alice Munro long has had the legend of being a "writer's writer"? (I've always been a bit curious about what that appellation implies.)"

It usually applies when the standard of writing is such that only writers will appreciate the obscurity!

But I think that's Munro's gift: her writing can be enjoyed on many levels.


Casceil | 1674 comments Mod
Her writing can be enjoyed on many levels, but I think I would have missed many of them if I read this book on my own, without these discussions. We all see different things in them, like the blind men groping the elephant. I have enjoyed sharing other's thoughts on the stories.


message 15: by Sophia, Honorary Moderator (new) - rated it 3 stars

Sophia Roberts | 1324 comments Mod
Oh, absolutely. I've learned such a lot about these stories.


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