“The Bear Came Over the Mountain” – The Alice Munro Story of the Month: March

She looked just like herself on this day – direct and vague as in fact she was, sweet and ironic.

We’re already up to March for The Alice Munro Story of the Month and I’ve read her story “The Bear Came Over the Mountain”. As I’ve said in my previous two posts and I’ll say again and I have a feeling that I could say this about all of Munro’s stories, she fits into a short story what most authors would have to include in a novel. Although at 46 pages, this story is a little longer than the usual short story.

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While Alzheimer’s Disease is not specifically mentioned in the story, most readers will come to the conclusion that this is what Fiona has. We know she is in her seventies and we see her deterioration from the point of view of her husband, Grant. We get a brief glimpse at the start of the story of Fiona and Grant as a young couple in college who get married on what might be called a whim and then jump directly to the aging couple dealing with Fiona’s disease – and we stay there for the rest of the story.

As the story is told from Grant’s perspective, we know he was not always faithful to Fiona in spite of what seems to be a deep love for her. I find this to be one of the more amazing aspects of Munro’s writing in that she perfectly combines Grant’s philandering and love for Fiona without condoning the former or discounting the latter. Munro wisely chooses to show us what Grant sees as opposed to trying to show us what Fiona may or may not see.

Anyone out there who might have gotten confused about the definition of irony in the mid 90’s by a certain Alanis Morrisette song need look no further than this story to find a beautiful example; however, I won’t spoil the plot by explaining it.

There is also the question of the title’s significance. The children’s song from which the title comes is never mentioned – which would lead one to believe there is some deeper significance. Other than the mountain perhaps symbolizing aging – as in “on the decline”, I’m simply content to find an interesting contrast in naming a story about aging after a light-hearted children’s song.

I found this story in Carried Away: A Selection of Stories by Alice Munro which I borrowed from my public library.

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3 responses to ““The Bear Came Over the Mountain” – The Alice Munro Story of the Month: March

  1. I remember this story being a part of a couple DMI participants’ lists in the past, but it’s one I’ve never read myself. I’ve also encountered Alzheimer’s (and other ‘elder mental illnesses’) in fiction several times over the years and many of the stories have treated this delicate subject quite well. Sounds like Munro does too.

    I remember that song and album so well from 1996-97. It was one of my favorites of that era and still lives on in my iPod/iPad/iTunes playlists. 🙂

    • Yes, I think Munro treats it well and does an amazing job of making both husband and wife very human. She doesn’t necessarily make the reader pity them – or at least I didn’t – but I had both an admiration for them and sympathy.

  2. Pingback: Mary Gordon: Mrs. Cassidy’s Last Year (Deal Me In 2016 – Week 31) | Mirror with Clouds

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