Born on July 10, 1931, in rural southwest Ontario, Canada, in the region east of Lake Huron, Alice Munro and her younger brother and sister were the children of Robert Eric Laidlaw, a farmer, and Anne Chamney Laidlaw, a former elementary school teacher turned homemaker. The family always seemed to be struggling financially. With the failure of his fox-farming business in 1948, Munro’s father became a night watchman in a local foundry and began raising turkeys in 1952. In 1943, when Munro was twelve, her mother began a long decline because of Parkinson’s disease, which led to her death sixteen years later.
Although her mother hoped that her daughter would escape their hometown of Wingham, Ontario, Munro’s future was expected to be that of a farmer’s wife. From the age of nine, however, she wanted to be an author. At fifteen she started writing, spending her school lunch hour composing stories while her classmates, who lived closer to the school, went home to eat. She finished a novel—a romantic, gothic work that later was stored in her father’s basement and eventually thrown out by her stepmother.
In 1949, she received a scholarship that enabled her to attend the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario, where she majored in journalism, a more explainable choice, she thought, than writing. While an undergraduate, she published her first story, “The Dimensions of a Shadow,” in a university journal and sold another to Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) Radio. On December 29, 1951, she married James Munro, a bookseller, left the university, and moved to Vancouver, British Columbia. During the twelve years the couple lived in Vancouver, she cared for the family house and tended to the needs of her two daughters, Sheila, born in 1953, and Jenny, born in 1957. Another daughter, Catherine, was born in 1955 and died shortly after her birth. Writing but discarding much of what she wrote, Munro did sell a few stories each year to small journals, such as the Canadian Forum, Mayfair, Montrealer, and Queen’s Quarterly. In 1963, the family moved to Victoria, British Columbia, where Munro and her husband opened a bookstore, Munro’s Books. Another daughter, Andrea, was born in 1966.
In 1968, at age thirty-seven, Munro published her first collection of short stories, Dance of the Happy Shades. For these stories, Munro drew on the familiar. The characters share traits with her, her family, and her neighbors. The setting—the small towns of southwest Ontario—was the...
(The entire section is 1041 words.)