Paying Homage to the Master of the Short Stories: Alice Munro

We commemorate author Alice Munro’s life and legacy. The Master of Short Stories.

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Alice Munro, two of her book covers on a cream background with leaves in the corners

Unfortunately, on May 14, 2024, Canadian author Alice Munro died at the age of 92. As an author, she loved writing short stories due to the lack of time and talent she believed she needed to master novels. Munro dedicated her career to crafting psychologically dense stories that earned her the Nobel Prize in Literature. Let’s take the time to recognize her works. 

The Life of Alice Munro

Alice Munro was born in Ontario, Canada, on July 10th, 1931. She was the eldest child of fox farmer Robbery Laidlaw and former schoolteacher Anne Laidlaw. Munro’s early life was marked by rural landscapes, especially small-town life. Her upbringing would later permeate her writing.

Alice Munro outside headshot photo.
IMAGE VIA BRITANNICA

Alice attended the University of Western Ontario, studying both English and journalism. However, she left university in 1951, without completing her degree, to marry James Munro, her peer. After marriage, she moved to Vancouver, British Columbia, where she and her husband raised three daughters. The family later relocated to open a bookstore. While balancing family life and business, Munro initially had little time for her own creative pursuits.

She began to write sporadically while raising her family; despite raising a family, her love of reading and writing never stopped. Her first story, The Dimensions of a Shadow, was published in 1950, when she was still a student. Her start into writing wasn’t a successful one, and it wouldn’t be until the late 1960s, after her marriage, that she fully dedicated herself to writing.

Her motivation? The drive to write. Munro was influenced by the need to articulate her characters’ intricate, emotional landscapes — human relationships. The themes of her work were often significantly influenced by her childhood, family, and overall experiences growing up in Ontario. 

Alice Monroe’s Most Significant Stories

How I Met My Husband: A story recalling 15-year-old Edie’s infatuation with an older boy who promises to write back. While she waits every day for a letter to arrive, nothing comes. Eventually, she ends up marrying the mailman, who tells her how he thought she was waiting for him at the mailbox.

Runaway: An abused wife, Carla, was urgently told by her neighbor, Sylvia, to run away from her husband, Clark. Eventually, when Carla decides to escape, Sylvia joins her in making the getaway.

Cover image of the book Runaway by Alice Munro.
IMAGE VIA BOOKSHOP

The Ticket: Ironically, this story reveals the nature of love and that weddings are a joke. The bride realizes a woman, Aunt Charlie, who helps pay for getting out of the marriage if it doesn’t work out is also someone in the family who didn’t marry for love.

Gravel: When the narrator’s mother is impregnated by a wannabe actor, the narrator feels that her entire life is ruined when she has to move into a trailer by a gravel pit. 

Child’s Play: At a summer camp, Marlene and Charlene become friends. The two girls share everything together, especially their carefree gossip and play. However, an eerie twist comes when they are both complicit in another camper named Verna’s death by holding her head underwater due to her “special needs.”

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The Bear Came Over the Mountain: Despite the title, the story is about a couple who’ve been married for decades, until they face the consequences of Alzheimer’s.

Day of the Butterfly: A short story about sixth-grade cruelty is told by a mature narrator; the students are demanding the expectation of the teacher to act when she admonishes her class to be nice to a student. 

As interesting as these are, you can definitely read more from Monroe’s short story collections, Lives of Girls and Women, Open Secrets, The Love of a Good Woman, Runaway, The View from Castle Rock, and Too Much Happiness.


If you want to learn more about some short stories, click here.

To start your story today, check out Writer Inspiration – Tips, Tricks, and Book Recs on Becoming a Better Writer on Bookshop.

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