Alice Munro's short stories are always a delight to read, and Friend of My Youth is no exception. In almost every collection of hers I have read, there is a line or two of description that makes me start out of my chair and realize, yes, that perfectly describes something I have been feeling.
In Hateship, Friendship etc., it was a description of large family gatherings where no one ever says anything of consequence that described so many dinners at my grandmother's house. Not that those dinners were bad, necessarily, but everyone was so different that nothing of consequence was ever broached.
In this one, it was the framing device in the first story, a woman talking about her dead mother, and how she remembers her as she was when she was dying, and not as she was before. This is something I've been struggling with, on and off, with my father's death - remembering him before the end. It's easier, perhaps, because the end came so quickly, but for months pictures of him yellow and asleep in the hospital bed in the dining room or the look of fear on his face when he was having the worst of his strokes crowded out years of good memories. I feel like I'm just now recovering my sense of him as he was before.
So yes, back to Alice Munro. Themes of infidelity, love lost and deferred, memory and the way we invent pasts and lives for people we barely know populate these stories and weave together in such wonderful ways.
I am so glad Alice Munro writes short stories. She seems to know instinctively how long a story should be, and how to get there, even though these are not stories of urgency, and often seem to meander.