I’ll die“, said Robin, “I’ll die if they don’t have that dress ready.”

Tricks, from Alice Munro´s short story collection Runaway, opens with Robin´s rather dramatic announcement, which immediately draws the reader´s attention to the item, “that dress”.

Robin, aged twenty-six, works as a nurse in a small town in Canada. Her sister Joanna, aged thirty, is stunted and crippled after suffering from severe asthma in her childhood. Joanna seems revengeful towards her sister, who, apparently, is the more “fortunate” of the two of them.

Their parents died, leaving them to live under the same roof. Does Robin feel obliged to remain unmarried and take care of Joanna, who generally keeps a scornful look on whatever her sister says and does?

On this extraordinary day in June, Robin plans to watch a play by Shakespeare – As You Like It, in a nearby town, Stratford. She goes by train. Her avocado green dress, sadly, is not ready as the woman who was supposed to iron it has been away from the cleaners because of her sick child. Robin wears another dress. That damn lemon, green dress.

Watching one play every summer seems to have become her ritual. She has been doing this for five years. After the play she would walk downtown, along the river, and find a place where she can get some plain food before catching the 07.40 p.m. train home. It is her little treat, and retreat from a monotonous life.

But this time is different. Robin is meeting with Danilo Adɀic, the man with a foreign accent, after the play. Yes a foreigner. Joanna would say foreigners pick up girls that nobody else would have.

Danilo is an immigrant from Montenegro.

“We will not write letters, letters are not a good idea. We will just remember each other and next summer we will meet. You don’t have to let me know, just come. If you still feel the same, you will just come.”

Robin recalls his words, one by one, at such a slow pace that she can feel the rhythm and catch the slight tremble in his voice. Her smile so faint, almost unnoticeable, her thought flying low over the river, the narrow brick house, and settles at the train station.

“It is important that we have met,” he said. “I think so. Do you think so?”

            She said, “Yes.”

            “Yes. Yes.”

 He slid his hands under her arms to hold her closer, around the waist, and they kissed again and again.

Robin reaches his brick house. The horror awaiting her, however, has crushed Robin to pieces. Her little secret, her sweet portrayal of Danilo’s mysterious and exotic life in the Montenegrin mountains, his long and lingering kiss, all vanish before her, in a few minutes.

It must be the dress, Robin thinks, decades after the terrifying moment. She wore the wrong green dress.

She wished she could tell someone. Him.



Some afterthoughts:

Alice Munro, the Canadian short story writer who won Nobel Prize in Literature in 2013, is one of my beloved writers. I have read most of her short story collections. Munro is a master of revealing the sophistication of human relationships and the multidimensional nature of life. Through her intense and complex narratives, dramatic stories of the most ordinary people are being unfolded.

With piles of unread books on the floor waiting to be picked up, I rarely turn back to “old” ones. Tricks is an exception. After reading this short story for the third time, I, who has not written a book review before, wanted to make a debut on this text category.


Author: Isabelle

Content writer / editor & Language advisor

37 thoughts on “Tricks”

  1. You made the right decision writing a review. I loved it! I’ve never read Alice Munro, but I am intrigued now.

    In a way, the plot reminded me of an old movie — What Ever Happened to Baby Jane. It is about two sisters living together and their complex relationship.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Someone introduced me to one of her short story collections about 10 years ago. This person played a vital role in the literary part of my life.

      Alice Munro was born in 1931 so she’s turning 88 this year. I watched a few interviews of her after she received Nobel Prize Award in 2013, a great writer with a sharp mind and an extraordinary passion for story-telling.

      I’ll check out the movie – What Ever Happened to Baby Jane.

      Thank you Basilike, for taking time to read and share your thoughts with me. Love.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I love the review, Isabelle. It’s excellent and thoughtful and sure did pique my interest. I read one of Munro’s short-story collection, Dear Life, many years ago. And you’re right, she has a marvellous way of weaving the most extraordinary stories into very ordinary lives, ultimately revealing the often-unseen nuances in relationships and complex human emotions, sometimes in an astounding way. Thanks, Isabelle. It might be time for me to perhaps pick up this Canadian author again soon.

    BTW, Isabelle, I was wondering whether the film, At Eternity’s Gate, has been screened in Norway. It is a biopic of Vincent Van Gogh. It is a brilliant movie, and made me think of the post you did about him. ❤ ❤

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you Vera, wholeheartedly, for you lovely comment and deep thoughts on her work ❤️ I spent some time to write and re-write the text. Tricks is a moving and thought-provoking story and the least I wanted to do is to ruin this excellent piece.

      I’ve also read Dear Life and once again, her extraordinary story-telling skills are being revealed and demonstrated.

      Thanks for reminding me of the Van Gogh film – At Eternity’s Gate. It’s still on in Norway and I watched it a few weeks ago. I fully agree with you, it’s a moving and brilliant film.

      I also watched a documentary film: Van Gogh – Wheat fields and Clouded Skies. A wide selection of his painting are shown and discussed by scholars of art history. Brilliant and insightful.

      It’s lovely to have a chat, Vera. You can’t imagine how much I appreciate it. Such a beautiful start of a Saturday. Thank you. ❤️❤️

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This is a wonderful write Isabelle. I can’t wait to read Tricks for myself. My heart is left dangling with wondering what next. And the photo you chose is absolutely just right. Take care 🌷

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Hey Isabelle!!! This is so very lovely. Left me sad. I could feel her longing and that complete awkwardness in never knowing why. I’ll have to check her out! Thank You for sharing this!!! And the photo is absolutely beautiful! I will be writing You back soon! I hold You in my heart and send Love and hugs Your way often!!! 😊💖🤗

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Dear Katy, thanks for sharing your thoughts on this with me. Tricks is a heart-wrenching story, which left me an overwhelming sense of sadness and emptiness. I had a strong urge to help the protagonists go back in time and clear their fatal misunderstandings. Robin did get to know why at the end, but too late. Danilo hadn’t got a chance to know it, which was very sad. That’s why the story closes with “She wished she could tell someone. Him.”
      You’re very much in my heart and thoughts, Katy. Take care 🌸❤️🌸❤️

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I made an attempt to get back to your site but an error message occurred. If your blog is active, just let me know. Thanks again for your kind words! 🌸🌹😊

        Liked by 1 person

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