Read: Collected Stories, Carol Shields. (Volume collects 3 books of stories.)
To call these stories “slice of life” or “vignette” stories is to do a disservice to Shields’ quiet perceptiveness about everyday life. There are no guns, no spells, no politics, no killers in these stories - just a subtle exploration of the meaning of the ordinary. The heroes (or, mostly, the heroines) of her stories buy new houses, cut the grass, or join nudist communes. They struggle with love, death, age, hope, and despair, just like the rest of us do. Nonetheless, Shields invokes a quiet magic in her stories, either through poetic exaggeration or through the mystery of coincidence. “Pardon,” for example, escalates from a woman buying an “I’m sorry” card for her father-in-law to a meditation of what the world might be like if everyone forgave without stint or hesitation.
The writing is as beautiful as the stories and as sharply drawn as the characters. This is a book to be savored, especially because Shields’ recent death means we can’t expect any more stories like these.
Though if life were a Carol Shields story, we might nonetheless receive more stories, pages floating down from the sky or words appearing to us in dreams, as unexpected and as heartbreaking as grace.