Friday, August 27, 2010

Feather Crowns by Bobbie Ann Mason (1993)

Another one of my random picks from the library shelves... I was not familiar with the author but the book looked interesting and it turned out to be a wonderful read. Of course a book where the first three chapters are about a woman in labor and giving birth to quintuplets might not be everybody's cup of tea, but I was riveted. It is the story of a young tobacco farmer's wife who unexpectedly gives birth to five children in 1900, and what effect this has on her life, as well as her husband, older children, extended family, and the small rural community they live in.
This is an incredible story - warm, funny, tragic - and the author does such a great job of making the early years of the 20th century seem so real, as if she lived through those times herself.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Hateship, friendship, courtship, loveship, marriage by Alice Munro (2001)

Normally I am not a big fan of short stories...just as you are getting involved with the characters and the plot, there's a sudden twist and it's over! But there is one big exception for me and that would be the short story collections by Alice Munro, which are fantastic. Each story is like a perfect gem, or a spectacularly decorated tiny cupcake, to be savored. It is true what the blurbs on the back of her books say, she does manage to encapsule the depth and scope of a novel in each of her short stories. It is mastery, pure and simple - to die for.

I first read Munro's work a few years ago when her book, The View from Castle Rock came out. At the time I was very busy with genealogy and was intrigued by the idea of writing based on the history of one's ancestors, which she did in the short stories in this book. It's a great book that moves along gradually and bumpily through the lives of various immigrants, recent arrivals and longtime residents of Ontario, Canada, where she is from.
I recently picked up two of her short story books at my library. This particular volume, with the wonderful title Hateship, friendship, courtship, loveship, marriage, did not disappoint. The nine stories vibrate with detail and meaning, and let us be observers of all sorts of intimate relationships, personal struggles, the pain we cause and the sacrifices we make. Highly recommended!