Iconic Canadian writer and former BC resident Alice Munro has died

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      Legendary short story writer Alice Munro died yesterday (May 13) at her home in Port Hope, Ontario. She was 92. It’s a loss that the literary community will be feeling for a long time.

      “Alice Munro is a national treasure—a writer of enormous depth, empathy, and humanity whose work is read, admired, and cherished by readers throughout Canada and around the world,” says Kristin Cochrane, CEO of Munro’s longtime publisher Penguin Random House Canada, in a statement. “Alice’s writing inspired countless writers, too, and her work leaves an indelible mark on our literary landscape.”

      Munro grew up in Wingham, Ontario and published her first story while attending the University of Western Ontario. Her life took a coastal turn when she and then-husband Jim Munro moved to Vancouver (she did not, it seems, like it very much) and eventually to Victoria, where they opened the now-legendary Munro’s Books. (Once they divorced, Jim remained in Victoria while Alice moved back to Ontario. Alice married her second husband, Gerald Fremlin, in 1976. Jim retired in 2014, leaving the business in the hands of four long-time staff members, and died in 2016.) Munro’s was a great source of inspiration for the then-budding author.

      “Jim enjoyed recounting his wife’s urge to write something better than the ‘crappy books’ that sold alongside the stores more palatable titles,” the store writes in a memorial Instagram post. “Yet the pleasures of bookselling found their way into Alice’s fiction, too.”


      Munro’s first short story collection, 1968’s Dance of the Happy Shades, won the Governor General’s Award (she later won it two more times). With that under her belt, she soon made a name for herself as a true writer of her time, penning stories on the experiences of girls and women, and making a point of rooting those stories right here in Canada. Write what you know, as they say.

      It’s now the stuff of legend that Munro initially focused on short stories because being a wife and mother did not allow her time to write novels. But she clearly fell in love with the medium, deciding somewhere along the way to dedicate her career to it (she did write one novel, Lives of Girls and Women, published in 1971). These days she is known as a master of the form.

      Her fame catapulted to a new level when she won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2013, making her the second Canadian to win the prestigious award, and only the 13th woman. She has also won the Giller Prize twice (in 1998 for Runaway in 1998 and in 2004 for The Love of a Good Woman), and her total of 14 short story collections have nabbed other world-famous literary prizes including the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Trillium Book Award, and the Man Booker International Prize.

      In another BC connection, for many years, Munro split her time between Clinton, Ontario and Comox on Vancouver Island. A hilarious mishap resulted in the woman who was renting her Comox apartment at the time of her Nobel Prize win being accidentally called and given the good news. Munro also apparently lived in both North Vancouver and West Vancouver at one time.

      To visit Munro’s Books in Victoria today is to make a pilgrimage to one of the last exceptionally great independent bookstores in this country. The high ceilings, the shelves packed with new and old titles, the sheer smell and feeling of the space—the store has remained dedicated to the written word in a world that seems determined to destroy it, or at the very least erase the power of it.

      Munro’s is no doubt putting its namesake author’s titles front and centre in its displays right now. As it should. As for us readers, we’re just lucky that we’ve got our own little piece of a true literary titan to call our own.