Title: Too Much Happiness
Author: Alice Munro
Publication Year: 2009
Genre: Fiction, Short Stories
Source: Bought from Chapters.ca
This is the pick for my book club this month, and was something that I wanted to read anyways, so it was a good chance to read some fiction that’s more recent than what I usually go for! (Also, it was the first book that I finished for the 24 Hour Read-A-Thon, but I had already almost finished the book already before it started.)
Munro’s latest book is a collection of short stories, leading up to the title piece (and the longest of the stories) based on a real-life mathematician named Sophia Kovalevsky. The stories all feature women whose lives are shaped or interrupted by sad or outright terrible things: “Too Much Happiness” is not a literal descriptor of the tone of this book. And yet, each of the women that Munro writes about seem to have a certain stoic strength to them, even in the face of so much adversity. The stories make you really think about the characters and about what real life is all about, not about the happy endings that you read in most fiction.
Speaking of fiction, here’s one of my favourite quotations from the book:
She hated to hear the word ‘escape’ used about fiction. She might have argued, not just playfully, that it was real life that was the escape. But this was too important to argue about.
To be honest, I’m not really sure what I want to say about Too Much Happiness. I loved it for the most part, though I didn’t necessarily “get” all of it. It definitely wasn’t a happy-go-lucky beach read; it made me think, it made me ponder life as I know it, it made me sad, it made me want to cry with (or for) the characters at least a few times. But it did this because of Munro’s writing and because of her characters, because she made you connect with them and want them to be happy and successful, and thus made you sad when things didn’t quite go as they hoped.
Too Much Happiness is definitely a piece of fiction that is more real than real life often seems. It was not an escape. But it was beautiful, and you should read it.