The View From Castle Rock

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November 08, 2006 at 05:00 AM EST

Alice Munro’s 12-story collection The View From Castle Rock is pitched as ”more personal than any she’s written before,” but that’s just hogwash. The genre doyenne’s perfectly modulated tales have always scored a direct wallop to the cerebral cortex. And she’s still at it as she fictionalizes the history of her father’s family, the Laidlaws. Unfortunately, the book’s first third thrums on; to fully absorb Rock‘s clear-eyed charm, start on page 111 with ”The Wilds of Morris Township,” which follows the Scottish clan’s arrival in Canada and inevitable struggle against 19th-century small-town mores. What then follows is a lineup of gorgeous (but never wistful) first-person narratives about childhood friends (”Fathers,” which echoes her own 1994 story ”Spaceships Have Landed”), her parents’ divergent work ethics (”Working for a Living”), and the perils of a lackluster marriage (”The Ticket”). She doesn’t broach any new themes, but Munro’s prodigious talent is all here.

The View From Castle Rock

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The View From Castle Rock

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