Sunday, 8 March 2015

Deal Me in Challenge: The Turkey Season by Alice Munro

Gobble. Gobble.
Card Drawn: Queen of Hearts

A Nobel prize winning author, Alice Munro is often considered one of Canada's greatest literary treasures and a master of the short-story. She tends to receive nothing but the highest praise from critics and readers alike -- yet, she is the kind of author who seems to always remain under the radar. Her writing possesses a modest, gentle, demure, quiet and reserved quality that feels so...Canadian. 

Out of all the stories that I have read from the McClelland & Stewart collection edition of Alice Munro's Best Selected Stories, Turkey Season is my least favorite. I picked it out at random because the title seemed oddly amusing. This story comes across as an anomaly, not indicative of the author's commendable writing talents. In contrast to many of the other stories, this one does not showcase Munro at her best. Hey, we all have off days right? Even the best writers are bound to crank out few duds once in a while. 

Taking place in a small unnamed town, a woman reflects on her younger days during the 1940's when she gets her first job working at a turkey farm. Positioned on the killing floor, her station is responsible for gutting the turkey out and removing all its innards before being prepared to be shipped off for sale. Kinda gross. Looking back on some of my part-time jobs during high-school such as working at the movie-theater or doing binary at a printing company don't seem as bad in comparison. The narrator along with several of her female co-workers are fascinated with the foreman named Herb Abbott since he has a charming and attractive personality but they can't quite figure him out. He enjoys their company but ignores their flirtatious advances. He only seems to care about his job. The women begin to think that he might be a homosexual, his true colors hiding behind that rugged exterior. Christmas is the busiest time of year at the turkey farm, so the boss hires additional staff to fill the orders. One of these new recruits is a young man named Brian who disrupts the balanced order upon his arrival. What follows is of little importance, or at least, rendered inconsequential even though Munro was aiming to be profound in some way by employing ambiguity. She captures the sense of nostalgia with clarity and grace but there is a severe lack of emotional nuance to the story. With a detached narrative voice, the entire story is far too conservative, bland and stilted. Her writing style reminiscent of John Steinbeck in its simplicity and directness. She is usually capable of delivering emotionally charged stories containing subtle complexities but this is not the case here. Much like the turkeys gutted out by the narrator, this story feels hollow, dried out and severely undercooked.


  1. I guess even the great writers are entitled to an occasional dud. I've read Munro a few times now in different Deal Me In editions and haven't run into one myself yet. :-)

  2. Out of curiosity, any chance you can recall which stories they were? She has written so many...

  3. One was called "Axis" and another that I read recently was "Some Women." I thought both of these were very good. Another one was "Menesetung" but at the moment it's plot escapes me...