Alice Munro, “Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage”

69Johanna leaves town with a new dress and some stolen furniture to begin a life in the middle of nowhere with a man who isn’t expecting her. 

(from Zoetrope: All-Story, Summer 2014)

The station agent would have said, without thinking about it, that he knew everybody in town. Which meant that he knew about half of them. And most of those he knew were the core people, the ones who really were ‘in town’ in the sense that they had not arrived yesterday and had no plans to move on.

This story is really long, longer than the average Munro story even, or the average Munro story that I’ve read. It’s also kind of confusing, like most of them, in that perspectives shift a lot and you have to read closely in order to keep up (and sometimes there is pronoun confusion because of this). That being said, it’s good. It’s really, really good.

It appears that the entire collection, of which this is the title story, is online. It was also made into a movie called Hateship Loveship (2013) starring Kristin Wiig. Rotten Tomatoes wasn’t crazy about it.

Anyhow, this story gave me all sorts of emotions. I felt hope and sadness and nervousness and all of these things I don’t often feel while reading, and which Alice Munro achieves because she’s a hell of a writer and she never hurries; she really takes her time. She gives us varying perspectives and stories within stories and stories within those stories and they somehow don’t feel out of place. She makes them all fit. Even the station agent has his say. I have no idea how she does it but it’s a pretty wondrous thing to behold. I won’t tell you how things turn out for Johanna, but I’ll say that you really ought to read it and find out.

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