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Picks and Pans Review: The Progress of Love

updated 10/13/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/13/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Alice Munro

When, a few years ago, the art of the short story seemed suddenly to be flourishing, Alice Munro's name was always mentioned with those at the top. This new collection confirms her status: She is among the best short story writers in the English language. In the title story, several lifetimes are revealed, with the focus on two sisters who perceive an incident—their mother's burning of an inheritance from her father because she hated him—in completely different fashion. In "Lichen" a man brings a girlfriend to visit his former wife and a father-in-law, who is in a nursing home. The former wife knows her ex-husband too well—"She was bloated with all she knew"—and knows he is tired of this woman and is pursuing someone younger. "White Dump" is a memory-packed visit to a summer log cabin on a lake by a young woman who recalls how she once gave her father a ride in an airplane as a gift, and her mother then had an affair with the pilot. Nearly all these thoughtful stories deal with more than one generation in a family. Separation and divorce are common. Many of the characters are country folk or small town people who marry someone with more education or from the city, and their lives are twisted out of balance. Every story contains truths, too, large and small. Munro moves constantly from present to past with effortless clarity. She makes ambiguities—and life is all ambiguities, isn't it?—vivid and unforgettable. (Knopf, $16.95)

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