Short Story Review: Runaway by Alice Munro

14280Title: Runaway

Author: Alice Munro

Genre: Short Story, Fiction

Publisher: The New Yorker

Published: August 11, 2003

Page Amount: Published Online

Quick Summary: Runaway is the title story of the anthology “Runaway” which details the story of a young woman, Carla, who thinks she wants to – but is incapable of leaving her husband. The story is available to read online free at The New Yorker. 

Why Read: Book Riot podcasters, Jeff O’Neil and Rebecca Schinsky, always talk about Alice Munro. When she won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2013, there were multiple segments all about her and how amazingly incredible she was. Here is it 4 years later and I’m just getting around to reading my first ever Munro story. I will admit… part of the reason this week’s review is a short story is because the Hamilton/Jefferson read has taken over my life. It’s one of those books that you want to take your time on while making 5000 million notations – it’s that good. But nevertheless, I have thoroughly enjoyed Runaway, and I may actually invest in reading some Munro more than I would have before.

Review: It’s always a bit difficult to navigate short stories. Immediately usually the reader is thrust into a situation with characters, with which we’re unfamiliar. Who are Carla and Clark? Why are they living here? What’s the problem? How do we find terminology to describe domestic abuse that isn’t quite what courts describe as spousal abuse? Munro throws us in the deep end, and as the reader – I felt bombarded by trying to understand the situation. In other words, I couldn’t speed-read. Carefully and with intent, I found every sentence to hold some key, some sort of code to deciphering what was happening to these characters. I loved it.

These days, it can be rare to find books that challenge you, rarer even still to find short stories that cause you to pause, reread a paragraph and think for a moment about what one character said to another. This is one of the reasons I’m really fond of Runaway. It forced me to stop and really consider the different aspects of the plot, of what each character’s intentions were towards the other. Normally we can’t speak about character development in short stories, but with Munro – we can. The main protagonist, Carla, details for us – throughout her own flashbacks and thoughts about the future, what kind of person she is. What drives her? Is it living an authentic life (what drew her to Clark) or is the freedom to not be caught in a desperate situation with nowhere to go? I won’t spoil the ending.

Again, the writing is what made this story shine for me. I’m not a fan of domestic life stories, I tend to go for more murder-style dramatic flairs, but with each sentence, I found myself drawn into the little life of Carla, no less important than World War 3. It takes a really fantastic writer to do that, and I’m over-the-moon with how incredible I found Munro’s writing. I would seriously recommend that everyone read this. It won’t take up too much of your time, and you mind find yourself (like me) drawn into the small dramatics of the small town problems of a domestic marriage.

Rating: 4.4/5 Stars

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