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Away from Herby Alice Munro
Synopses & Reviews
The Bear Came Over the Mountain
Fiona lived in her parents' house, in the town where she and Grant went to university. It was a big, bay-windowed house that seemed to Grant both luxurious and disorderly, with rugs crooked on the floors and cup rings bitten into the table varnish. Her mother was Icelandic--a powerful woman with a froth of white hair and indignant far-left politics. The father was an important cardiologist, revered around the hospital but happily subservient at home, where he would listen to strange tirades with an absentminded smile. All kinds of people, rich or shabby-looking, delivered these tirades, and kept coming and going and arguing and conferring, sometimes in foreign accents. Fiona had her own little car and a pile of cashmere sweaters, but she wasn't in a sorority, and this activity in her house was probably the reason.
Not that she cared. Sororities were a joke to her, and so was politics, though she liked to play "The Four Insurgent Generals" on the phonograph, and sometimes also she played the "Internationale," very loud, if there was a guest she thought she could make nervous. A curly-haired, gloomy-looking foreigner was courting her--she said he was a Visigoth--and so were two or three quite respectable and uneasy young interns. She made fun of them all and of Grant as well. She would drolly repeat some of his small-town phrases. He thought maybe she was joking when she proposed to him, on a cold bright day on the beach at Port Stanley. Sand was stinging their faces and the waves delivered crashing loads of gravel at their feet.
"Do you think it would be fun--" Fiona shouted. "Do you think it would be fun if we got married?"
He took her up on it, he shouted yes. He wanted never to be away from her. She had the spark of life.
Just before they left their house Fiona noticed a mark on the kitchen floor. It came from the cheap black house shoes she had been wearing earlier in the day.
"I thought they'd quit doing that," she said in a tone of ordinary annoyance and perplexity, rubbing at the gray smear that looked as if it had been made by a greasy crayon.
She remarked that she would never have to do this again, since she wasn't taking those shoes with her.
"I guess I'll be dressed up all the time," she said. "Or semi dressed up. It'll be sort of like in a hotel."
She rinsed out the rag she'd been using and hung it on the rack inside the door under the sink. Then she put on her golden-brown fur-collared ski jacket over a white turtle-necked sweater and tailored fawn slacks. She was a tall, narrow-shouldered woman, seventy years old but still upright and trim, with long legs and long feet, delicate wrists and ankles and tiny, almost comical-looking ears. Her hair, which was light as milkweed fluff, had gone from pale blond to white somehow without Grant's noticing exactly when, and she still wore it down to her shoulders, as her mother had done. (That was the thing that had alarmed Grant's own mother, a small-town widow who worked as a doctor's receptionist. The long white hair on Fiona's mother, even more than the state of the house, had told her all she needed to know about attitudes and politics.)
Otherwise Fiona with her fine bones and small sapphire eyes was nothing like her mother. She had a slightly crooked mouth which she emphasized now
Married for fifty years, Grant and Fiona's perfect life together is shattered after Fiona is diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.
Alice Munro has long been heralded for her penetrating, lyrical prose, and in “The Bear Came Over the Mountain” – the basis for Sarah Polley’s film Away From Her — her prodigious talents are once again on display. As she follows Grant, a retired professor whose wife Fiona begins gradually to lose her memory and drift away from him, we slowly see how a lifetime of intimate details can create a marriage, and how mysterious the bonds of love really are.
About the Author
Alice Munro grew up in Wingham, Ontario, and attended the University of Western Ontario. She has published eleven previous collections of stories-Dance of the Happy Shades; Something I've Been Meaning to Tell You; The Beggar Maid; The Moons of Jupiter; The Progress of Love; Friend of My Youth; Open Secrets; The Love of a Good Woman; Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage; Runaway; and The View from Castle Rock--as well as a novel, Lives of Girls and Women, and a Selected Stories.
During her distinguished career she has been the recipient of many awards and prizes, including three Governor General's Literary Awards--Canada's highest; the Lannan Literary Award; the W.H. Smith Award, given to Open Secrets as the best book published in the United Kingdom in 1995; and the United States' NBCC Award. Her stories have appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, The Paris Review, and other publications, and her collections have been translated into thirteen languages. Alice Munro and her husband divide their time between Clinton, Ontario, near Lake Huron, and Comox, British Columbia.
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