I’ve heard of Alice Munro, but this totally weird short story Some Women is the first thing of hers I’ve actually read. Most of the time I don’t get a chance to read gossipy page-turners like this, so let’s just say my pages were turning quite–or should I say qwat?–fast. In my opinion, Some Women does a fine job of revealing not only the weird and ugly side of (unfortunately) female nature in particular, but also just how quickly the desire for domination can turn into an undignified and essentially ridiculous cat fight.
For me, the most interesting and well-developed character in Some Women was that of Roxanne. Maybe it’s just American culture–or, on the other hand, maybe it’s just me assuming that a Jennifer Love Hewitt Lifetime movie I watched last summer with my mom is American culture–but I’m pretty sure that if you invite 100 people to perform a free association with the word “masseuse,” 99 of them are going to say “prostitute” right off the bat. That being said, I found it really weird that Munro writes Roxanne more as an escort than as a legit massage therapist: beyond her questionable profession, she also tells “smutty” jokes and starts dressing sexy for each of her meaningful visits with the young and bedridden and married Mr Crozier. As Roxanne allows herself to get pulled into this weird (not to mention pathetic) competition with the man’s wife–whom she hates but apparently has never even met–it is really interesting but also kind of sad to track her downward spiral. In the beginning of the story Roxanne is this hip bohemian admired by the narrator for her offbeat manner, but by the end of Some Women her desire to best not only the absent wife, but also the rigid class structure of 1950s America, really does turn her into this insecure and entirely uncool monster, much as the qwat incident referenced in my first paragraph–as well as the stalking–succinctly suggests. The downright pathetic quality of this character is only compounded by the fact that it doesn’t even seem that Mr Crozier is interested in her at all, but just puts up with her presence at the behest of his mother.
This brings me to the part of Some Women I personally found to be the most unbelievable. Why is there this double meaning to Roxanne’s visits at all? It is obvious to the narrator as well as the reader that Old Mrs Crozier has hired Roxanne for more than just her skills as a masseuse, with Munro clearly playing on the whole “She’s not good enough for you” weird jealous in-law dynamic here. While a mother who cannot help but undermine the authority of her daughter-in-law is one thing, I find it really hard to believe that Old Mrs Crozier would actually want a hired masseuse to replace the history professor wife to whom her son is still married. However, although Old Mrs Crozier’s motivation isn’t exactly believable in and of itself, I think Munro is drawing a connection here between a mother’s inability to cope not only with the loss of control that she once wielded over her now grown son, but also just with his loss in general. Overall, Some Women is a psychologically in-depth and also very engaging read, in my opinion totally deserving of the 2010 Pen/O. Henry Prize. Publish? Yes!