traditionally plotted novel, Alice Munro's Lives of Girls and Women
is like a television series in which each self-contained episode
focuses on a theme in the coming-of-age story of star Del Jordan in
1940s' small-town Canada. This episodic quality isn't surprising
from Munro, a contemporary master of the short story who has written
only this one novel.
Going into the fourth grade in the first chapter, first-person narrator
Del is living with her parents and younger brother on a fox farm
outside Jubilee, Ontario, a town that was founded by her
great-great-grandfather. Later her mother rents a place in town and
learns to drive so that she can go on the road selling encyclopedias.
Del is embarrassed by her opinionated, agnostic mother, but she herself
is unconventional for a girl of the '40s. She doesn't want children, is
certain that fame is her destiny, and stores her writings as other
girls store pillowcases for their future households.
Whether refusing to view an uncle in his coffin or sharing sexual
information with her best friend or resisting a boyfriend's pressure to
be baptized, Del is bright, insightful, and funny. She somehow avoids
the worst consequences of her girlhood follies. The book ends with Del
on the verge of womanhood; what will happen to her next isn't all
forecast, but the book is evidence that she became a writer. Lives of Girls and Women
is believed to have been based on the author's real life, and Munro has
commented ambiguously that it is "autobiographical in form but not in