I've never read Alice Munro before—well, maybe a story or two here and there (though I don't get The New Yorker so I wouldn't ordinarily run into them). And here's a whole book, and it's devastating. She packs more detail and character into 20 pages than most writers get into a novel, and everything adds up to misunderstandings and missed opportunities which lead to disappointed lives. But it's exhilarating, because she brings you inside those lives—lives of Canadian women, from the '20s to the present—so you can see how their choices made sense at the time. I'm a big fan of that other chronicler of disappointed women, Anita Brookner, but Munro's stories are more rounded and unbuttoned, more organic. I wouldn't go so far as to call them loose, but they're definitely looser.Everything is set very exactly somewhere in Canada, from northern Ontario to the BC coast, and we know that by more than just the references to snow accumulation and the Stratford Festival, though I couldn't say how. Is there a "Canadian character"? In any case, though they are so specifically situated, the stories could take place anytime, anywhere—anywhere with similar community morals, that is.The audiobook narrator has a very precise, flat pronunciation which fits the Canadian setting but is a little too cold and clipped for real listening pleasure; she shows she can do joy and humor in some characters' voices, but keeps the narration serious. That's a little much for stories which, as the women live them, must all seem to be grand adventures. Whether life is a comedy or a tragedy depends on the final act.This book took me a year to "read," because I typically listen to audiobooks while I'm doing something else (cooking, running, folding laundry) and I only sporadically mustered the concentration to appreciate the stories. And listening to them all at once, straight through, would probably have been far more depressing than I could handle.