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Margaret Atwood has frequently been cited as one of the foremost writers of our time. MORAL DISORDER, her moving new book of fiction, could be seen either as a collection of ten stories that is almost a novel or as a novel broken up into ten stories. It resembles a photograph album—a series of clearly observed moments that trace the course of a life, and also the lives intertwined with it—those of parents, of siblings, of children, of friends, of enemies, of teachers, and even of animals. And as in an album, times change: the 30s, the 40s, the 50s, the 60s, the 70s and 80s, the present time—all are here. The settings are equally varied: large cities, suburbs, farms, northern forests.
The first story, “The Bad News,” is set in the present, as a couple no longer young situate themselves in a larger world no longer safe. The narrative then switches time as the central character moves through childhood and adolescence in “The Art of Cooking and Serving,” “The Headless Horseman,” and “My Last Duchess.” We follow her into young adulthood in “The Other Place,” and then through a complex relationship, traced in three of the stories: “Monopoly,” “Moral Disorder,” and “The Entities.” The last two stories, "The Labrador Fiasco" and "The Boys at the Lab," deal with the heartbreaking old age of parents but circle back again to childhood, to complete the cycle.
By turns funny, lyrical, incisive, tragic, earthy, shocking, and deeply personal, MORAL DISORDER displays Atwood’s celebrated storytelling gifts and unmistakable style to their best advantage. As The New York Times has said, "The reader has the sense that Atwood has complete access to her people's emotional histories, complete understanding of their hearts and imaginations.”