I have been struggling to capture the subtleties of Alice Munro's Too Much Happiness. Leah Hager Cohen, writing in the New York Times, does a better job than I can. These are typical Munro short stories; they appear simple at first reading, but then hit you like a rocket attack once you get going.
Sometimes these stories aren't really about what they seem to be about. Even when they seem to be about "big" issues (such as domestic violence, for example), their power comes from something else, from something small that happens in the last few seconds, something that you can almost overlook, like the tiny murder that is going on in the corner of the painting.
Alice Munro won the 2009 Man Booker International Prize, which honors "one writer's overall contribution to fiction on the world stage." She has written a lot of books, but I've only read a handful. It takes me a long time to get through one of her volumes because I have to read a story and then rest for a while. Then I can do another one.
That's how powerful they are.
Becky Holmes blogs about books at A Book A Week.