Set in her native southwest Ontario, they include 'Royal Beatings', in which a young girl, her father and her stepmother release the tension of their circumstances in a ritual of punishment and reconciliation; 'Friend of My Youth', in which a woman comes to understand that her difficult mother is not so very different from herself; and 'The Love of a Good Woman', in which, when an old crime resurfaces, a woman has to choose whether to believe in the man she intends to marry.
Like the World War I soldier of the title story, whose letters from the front to a small-town librarian he doesn't know change her life for ever, Munro's unassuming characters take permanent hold of our imaginations. Her incomparable empathy for the people she writes about, the depth of her understanding of human nature, and the grace and surprise of her narrative add up to a richly layered and capacious fiction.
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