Review Open Secrets and Runaway by Alice Munro

Here is the recording of the program if you have missed the zoom event.

Review by Sunita Shetty

Open Secrets and Runaway by Nobel prize winning author Alice Munro

At The Book Club Pune session on Sunday 20 th February 2022, Dr. Varsha Ghate presented 2
short stories – Open Secrets and Runaway by Nobel prize winning author Alice Munro.
Varsha began by introducing the audience to this relatively unknown (to most in the
audience) Canadian author. Alice Munro studied English literature in southwest Ontario. A
frequent theme of her work has been the dilemmas of a girl coming of age, the travails of
middle age, women alone, and the elderly.
Varsha took us through the first short story of the evening – Open Secrets. In the story,
Heather Bell, a teenage girl disappears from a hike. It is unclear whether or not, Heather
Bell, has been killed, kidnapped, or has run away. Narrated by Maureen Stephens, who is a
hiker twenty years after Heather’s disappearance, she speaks of Mary Johnstone, who was
leading the hike when Heather vanished. Both she and Mary have no children, which leads
Maureen to contemplate her own life and the consequences of her choices. But more
interesting even is Maureen’s examination of her own relationship with her older husband,
a man she has always been subservient to and who she’s not particularly comfortable with
Runaway, the second story for the evening, is about a young woman who refuses a chance
to escape a bad marriage. The wife, Carla, is twice a runaway. When she was 18 and college-
bound, she ran off to marry her husband, Clark, and then later, she runs away a second
time—this time from Clark. Carla’s beloved white goat, Flora, also appears to be a runaway,
having inexplicably disappeared. By the end of the story, though, it seems likely that Clark
has been trying to get rid of the goat all along. Runaway people, animals, and emotions
abound in the story.
The discussion that followed Varsha’s review, was varied and interesting. The listeners were
intrigued by the use of symbolism by Alice Munro and her narrative style of moving forward
and backward in time. As Varsha pointed out, Munro doesn’t give her readers answers, she
expects them to choose which way the story could go. A wonderful evening spent
discovering a very interesting author!

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