The town was full of the smell of horses. As evening came on, big blinkered horses with feathered hooves pulled the sleighs across the bridge, past the hotel, beyond the street lights, down the dark side of the roads. Somewhere out in the country they would lose the sound of each other’s bells.
Alice Munro’s short story “Carried Away” provides an interesting question. Is it a ghost story? An unexplained incongruity in the story makes the reader wonder if ghosts are the best explanation. If not ghosts, then perhaps a dream? Thinking about this was fascinating.
It also contains one of the most gruesome scenes I’ve read in a while.
At the same time, “Carried Away” isn’t simply ghosts, dreams or gore. Like the other Alice Munro stories I’ve read, the female protagonist seems to exist in a self-imposed isolation. She lives with what I would call a mild state of despair. We don’t know all of the details but a failed relationship inspires Louisa to move to her current home town to be a librarian; however, it seems like this despair is the price she pays for being who she is and for standing on her own two feet. It also seems a price she is willing to pay.
“Carried Away” has a more winding plot than the other Munro stories I’ve read. It starts with Louisa receiving letters from a soldier in Europe during World War I. He knows who she is but, being new to the town, she is unable to place his face. This inability to know him goes on for longer than one might possibly think; however, I found this aspect of the story powerful. The winding part of the plot involves what happens to both characters for the next several decades.
If you like ghost stories, read “Carried Away” and see what you think. If you like gruesome, read this and I don’t think you will be disappointed.
This story is included in the collection Carried Away: A Selection of Stories that I borrowed from my public library.