Alice Munro is extremely skillful at creating a world from a slice of life that may seem ordinary, and yet she recognizes that ordinary often contains drama that the reader can easily recognize. In this first story of the anthology, Munro lays out a simple setting, a farmhouse, a family, and a visit by a trio of old maid cousins. Munro allows us to get to know these people a bit, enough to feel comfortable with them and with the narrator of the story, a daughter who eventually moves away from the homestead and the small town mentality.
Munro pushes us ahead to a scenario where this daughter is married and living in what appears to be not a haven away from the farm, but a more sheltered and restricted area in which she fears her husband’s disapproval constantly. When one of the last surviving elderly cousins comes to visit, it is a situation which brings out the expected worst in her husband’s elitist attitude, and worse, her discovery of her own shame of her background.
Munro always promises to bring interesting characters and soul-searching moments in her stories, and often it is not obvious that the character is doing this–the only giveaway being that he or she finds a reason to tell the story.