It seems that I've been on somewhat of a Margaret Atwood binge here of late. It started with the Handmaid's Tale, then Cat's Eye, followed by The Penelopiad. In addition, I ordered and have sitting on my shelves Alias Grace and the Blind Assassin. I finished my latest helping of Atwood a couple days ago. Wilderness Tips is a short story collection, which deals with a lot of the same types of themes that Atwood is known for in her writing. Women always play prominent roles. For the most part the women are strong or are struggling against oppression to exert their strength. There are ten stories in this collection, and I can honestly say that I enjoyed them all. It would be extremely difficult to pick one as a favorite. I guess if I had to single one out, it would be "Weight" simply because I continue to think about this story.
It begins with a woman trying to get a businessman to make a charitable donation over dinner. It's obvious that she's willing to do whatever it takes to secure his donation for her cause -- a battered women's shelter. In fact, she lets us know that this is not the first time that she's used her sexuality to get what she wants from a man. She's never married and doesn't think she ever will. She's not sure that she wants to. But there is some ambiguity there. As the story progresses, we learn that she and her friend, Molly, started adult life as young, idealistic attorneys who were going to help women and change the world in the process. She describes Molly as optimistic and caring -- someone who sees the best in others and believes that she can make things better for them. As the story continues, we learn that Molly eventually marries and has children, but things are not as they should be. She considers leaving her husband and discusses it with her friend. I can't really say any more about the story without giving too much away. However, I think it's interesting that the author decides to put an educated, middle class, feminist into this particular situation. I think society often assumes that women who find themselves in destructive relationships are often poor and uneducated. They stay with their man because they have no other options or don't know what else to do. That's one of the things that I really like about Atwood. She doesn't always follow the conventional wisdom. She looks at things from all angles and her characters are multidimensional.
Though feminist in nature, her writing doesn't paint all men as evil and all women as victims (thank goodness!). It's much more complex than that. No matter what I've read by Margaret Atwood -- novel, short story, poetry -- she always makes me think. I'm going to order another collection of short stories that I saw somewhere online the other day -- The Door -- and continue my Margaret Atwood feast.