by Julie HaleNovember, 2005
Hailed as Munro's best collection yet, this is the 12th book from an author who has perfected the short story form. In these eight selections, each of which takes place in her native Canada, Munro examines the nuances of human relationships, exploring the complexities of marriage, the difficulties of parenting and the responsibilities inherent in friendship. In the title narrative, a discontented wife, aided by a neighbor, decides to leave her abusive husband, but her plan doesn't go quite as expected. A sequence of three interconnected narratives "Chance," "Soon" and "Silence" tells the story of Juliet, an instructor at a girls' school who quits her job to engage in a passionate love affair. The consequences of that romance the birth of her child, a renewed relationship with her own parents lead Juliet into a deeper understanding of herself and her decisions. The female protagonist in "Powers," who can see into the future, triggers a series of events involving her fiancÅ½ and a friend, events that alter their lives forever. Overall, the narratives in Runaway are coolly composed, possessing a quiet calm, but tension is part of what makes them work, and it hums like a hive beneath the surface of the book. At the age of 74, Munro is at the peak of her powers. A reading group guide is available in print and online at readinggroupcenter.com.