(Masterpieces of American Literature)

“Save the Reaper” is one of the most disturbing stories Munro has written. Eve, an actress, is driving in a rural area with her two young grandchildren. In the car, her grandson Philip imagines alien space invaders in other cars, which they then follow. The game is Eve’s; she used to play it with her daughter Sophie. Eve has generally fond memories of her daughter and blames their past estrangement on Sophie’s husband and mother-in-law. However, her idyllic vacation with Sophie and the grandchildren on the shores of Lake Huron is cut short when her daughter secretly phones her husband, asking him to rescue her. Forced to recognize her real relationship with her child, Eve must constantly reassess what she believes to be true.

As Eve tries to recall places of interest to charm her grandson, her faulty memory of a wall decorated with glass mosaics finds her turning off the road onto private property to ask directions from the driver of a pickup truck which is blocking her way. He leads her into a dilapidated farmhouse where four sinister people sit in a littered, windowless room, drinking and playing poker. One man is naked. Eve suddenly realizes that the situation is out of control; she has put the children in real danger, as well as herself, in what is apparently a drug house. Still, she agrees to give a young woman hitchhiker a ride to town, has even given the girl directions to her cabin, where after this night Eve will be alone. She is terrified, with an impending sense of disaster.

Save the Reaper Summary

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Eve, the central character of “Save the Reaper,” has rented a house near a Lake Huron, Ontario, beach, which she had known as a child, in order to entice her married daughter Sophie and her children, Philip and Daisy, to visit. Eve has not seen the family in five years, for they live in California. Her daughter and the children arrive first. When Sophie goes to meet her husband’s plane in Toronto, Eve takes her grandchildren Philip and Daisy for a drive to a nearby village to get ice cream.

Along the way, they play a tiresome game that involves imagining space aliens in other vehicles. When a truck they are trailing turns into a lane, Philip wants to follow it, but Eve decides to drive on. However, before she can do so, she sees the lane’s gateposts: unusual constructions of whitewashed pebbles and colored glass. Eve suddenly remembers that once, when traveling with her mother in this area, she had seen a similar wall on which fascinating pictures were made of colored glass.

Eve turns into the lane, which is lined by large drooping pines, and follows the truck. She comes on a derelict barn surrounded by rusting machinery and a dilapidated house. The sight is mildly frightening. She would like to escape, but the truck is parked in such a way that she cannot turn around. She gets out of her car and asks the driver of the truck about the wall with colored glass. He persuades her to go into the house to meet someone named Harold, who may...

(The entire section is 559 words.)