Family Furnishings: Selected Stories, 1995 – 2014
By: Alice Munro
Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase
Here is a selection of Munro’s most accomplished and powerfully affecting short fiction from the last two decades, a companion volume to A Wilderness Station: Selected Stories, 1968–1994. These stories encompass the fullness of human experience, from the wild exhilaration of first love (in “Passion”) to the punishing consequences of leaving home (“Runaway”) or ending a marriage (“The Children Stay”). And in stories that Munro has described as “closer to the truth than usual”—”Dear Life,” “Working for a Living,” and “Home”—we glimpse the author’s own life.
Subtly honed with her hallmark precision, grace, and compassion, these stories illuminate the quotidian yet astonishing particularities in the lives of men and women, parents and children, friends and lovers as they discover sex, fall in love, part, quarrel, suffer defeat, set off into the unknown, or find a way to be in the world.
I’ve been excited about this book ever since its publication was announced last year. Like the book blurb mentions, it’s the perfect companion to her first selected stories compilation (review) and while I have read a few of her short story collections in the last few years, I know there are plenty other books and stories of hers that I have yet t read.
It was an interesting experience reading this collection of short stories because in fact I’ve read most of them from previous collections spanning this time period save for the ones that were that came from her short story collection Too Much Happiness. Suffice to say it’s a fairly solid collection; like any short story collection there are always hits and misses depending on the reader and their interests, but as I read most of the collections covered in this book, I think the choices made on what to include here were pretty great: from “The Love of a Good Woman” (review) to every story selection in Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage (review) and Runaway (review) to “Amundsen” from Dear Life (review). Unfortunately The View from Castle Rock (review) wasn’t an enjoyable read for me so I’m left rather lukewarm on the selections from that collection. The stories chosen from Too Much Happiness were interesting enough and provided the remaining links to this collection.
Looking at this stories in sum, you can feel a progression and maturity in Munro’s later works; it’s still classic Munro with the themes and elements of every day life that make up the human experience. I enjoyed it far more than her first overarching collection of short stories (review) as I found them more engaging and interesting. It’s definitely a good place to start if you’re curious to check out Alice Munro’s stories for the first time.