She hadn’t had time to wonder about his being late. He’d died bent over the sidewalk sign that stood in front of the hardware store offering a discount on lawnmowers. -From Free Radicals-
When Nita’s 81 year old husband Rich drops dead outside the hardware story, Nita grieves and wonders how she could have outlived him given her terminal diagnosis of cancer. Then an intruder arrives – and Nita’s view of life and death changes.
Alice Munro has crafted a short story about grief and moving forward after the death of a loved one. She also explores the creativeness of the human mind, especially when confronted with our own demise. Carefully constructed (although at times feeling a bit contrived), Free Radicals leaves some questions unanswered. I read this story on line at the New Yorker for 21st Fiction Yahoo Group. Not everyone in the group came away from it with the same interpretation of events. This is one thing I enjoy about a well-written short story – the loose ends, the questions that perhaps have several different answers. Free Radicals is a story which appears simple on its face, but has many levels of meaning below the surface.