Alice Munro, Author . Knopf $25 (344p) ISBN 978-0-7710-6506-4

Nothing is new in Munro's latest collection, which is to say that the author continues to perfect her virtuosic formula in these eight short stories, several of which previously appeared in the New Yorker . While her style typifies the traditionally realistic, often domestic genre of that magazine, Munro's stories are also global, bighearted and warm. In the title story, a housekeeper tries to leave her emotionally abusive husband, entangling her employer in the process. Three interconnected stories—"Chance," "Soon" and "Silence"—follow a schoolteacher as she falls for an older man, returns as a young mother to visit her ailing parents on their farm and much later tries to "rescue" her daughter from a religious cult. In "Tricks," a lonely nurse on a day trip encounters a man from Montenegro and vows to return to his clock shop one year later to resume their affair. In deliberate prose, Munro captures their fleeting moment of passion on a train platform: "This talk felt more and more like an agreed-upon subterfuge, like a conventional screen for what was becoming more inevitable all the time, more necessary, between them." Munro's characters are hopeful and proud as they face both the betrayals and gestures of kindness that animate their relationships. One never knows quite where a Munro story will end, only that it will leave an incandescent trail of psychological insight. Agent, William Morris. 100,000 first printing. (Nov. 14)

Reviewed on: 10/11/2004
Release date: 09/01/2004
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