‘Train’ by Alice Munro

Alice Munro, winner of the 2013 Nobel prize in literature

Train by Alice Munro, 2012

The magic trick:

Tracing a man’s lifetime in one (longish) short story

Alice Munro is that rare author who eschews the novel in favor of the short story. Personally, I think that’s pretty cool, but if you find yourself dying for an Alice Munro novel, reading “Train” isn’t a bad substitute. Munro covers a novel’s worth of ground here. The story’s central character emotionally checks out and physically leaves a situation when it gets difficult, rather than stay and address his feelings, weaknesses or needs. The story’s structure follows a similar path then, ditching one plot and picking up another without warning. The end result is the picture of a sad, fractured life and a trail of unhappiness left behind. And that’s quite a trick on Munro’s part.

The selection:

Tears came into her eyes and she turned pettishly away.

“I want to go home.”

“Soon you will.”

“You could help me find my clothes.”

“No I couldn’t.”

“If you won’t I’ll do it myself. I’ll get myself to the train station myself.”

“There isn’t any passenger train that goes up our way anymore.”

Abruptly then, she seemed to give up on her plans for escape.


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