The Moons Of Jupiter by Alice Munro, 1978
The magic trick:
Combining changes and thoughts about the protagonist’s relationship to both her father and her daughters into a seamless blend
This is a ridiculously beautiful story about being a child and being a parent. Munro is able to intertwine her protagonist’s experiences both tending to her ailing father and catching up with her ever-changing daughters so that each thread influences how we see the other.
Often, you see this effect done a little clumsily, so that as a reader you feel every attempt the writer is making to influence your experience. Oh, I see, this realization about the daughter means I should know view her relationship with her father in a new life. Got it.
But this story is never so clunky as all of that. When the protagonist divulges thoughts about her daughters it flows naturally within the plot. When she processes aloud the arc of her relationship with her father, again, it’s within the plot; not some obvious digression to support a theme. The result is a story that hits its emotional marks on the head but does so with elegance. And that’s quite a trick on Munro’s part.
The thought of my father’s childhood, which I always pictured as bleak and dangerous—the poor farm, the scared sisters, the harsh father—made me less resigned to his dying. I thought of him running away to work on the lake boats, running along the railway tracks, toward Goderich, in the evening light. He used to tell about that trip. Somewhere along the track he found a quince tree. Quince trees are rare in our part of the country; in fact, I have never seen one. Not even the one my father found, though he once took us on an expedition to look for it. He thought he knew the crossroad it was near, but we could not find it. He had not been able to eat the fruit, of course, but he had been impressed by its existence. It made him think he had got into a new part of the world.
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