One Story Magazine recently listed their top ten favorite short stories, along with an additional twenty-six stories to flush out the “long list.” Alice Munro’s Friend of My Youth made the long list. In my quest to read each of these stories, I was bound to encounter a few I don’t like. This is the first story to fall in that category.
On the first night I started to read it, three pages in I sighed and closed the book. I was not hooked. I thought I was just tired but I picked up the Joyce Carol Oates story and devoured that. I knew I needed to revisit the Munro piece, so I set some time aside the next night after dinner and read through the story.
In Friend of My Youth, the narrator has a dream about her dead mother, then proceeds to tell a story about when her mother was a young teacher at the Grieves School in Ottawa. The Grieves was a family with two sisters Flora and Ellie. Flora gets engaged to a man named Robert, but before they are married, he ends up getting Ellie pregnant and marries her instead. Flora does not appear to be upset. Ellie miscarries. She miscarries again and eventually dies. Will Robert and Flora reunite? No. Robert instead marries the nurse who cared for Ellie in her final days. At the end of the story, the narrator returns to discuss her mother’s final years.
The jump from the dream into the recollection of the Grieves tale and back out didn’t gel for me. I also disliked Munro’s prose in certain places. It’s hard to enjoy a story if the prose doesn’t float. I understand Munro is considered a master of the short story. She has been very prolific. At some point, I will have to return and try other Munro stories to see if this story was an anomaly.
If you happen to be a fan of Friend of My Youth, please leave me a comment and tell me what you like about it. If you have recommendations on Munro stories that I should try, please let me know.