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All My Puny Sorrows

Miriam Toews

All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews is a story of sisters, suicide and how to carry on with hope when grief loads the heart.

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Date Published
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Shortlisted for the Folio Prize 2015
Shortlisted for the Wellcome Book Prize 2015
Sunday Times Top Choice Summer Read


Elf and Yoli are two smart, loving sisters.

Elf is a world-renowned pianist, glamorous, wealthy, happily married: she wants to die.

Yoli is divorced, broke, sleeping with the wrong men: she desperately wants to keep her older sister alive.

When Elf’s latest suicide attempt leaves her hospitalised weeks before her highly anticipated world tour, Yoli is forced to confront the impossible question of whether it is better to let a loved one go.

‘The novel she has written – so exquisitely that you’ll want to savour every word – reads as if it has been wrenched from her heart.’ Christina Patterson, Sunday Times

‘[Toews] has produced a masterly book of such precise dignity. It is, also against all the odds, at times a desperately humorous novel.’ Daily Mail

Critic Reviews

What holds this novel together, stops it from becoming saturated with sorrow, is a wit so sharp it hurts to laugh at certain scenes ... [Toews] also takes us on a heart-rending journey through her characters' emotional landscapes, via the cruel terrain of despair in which Elf becomes stranded, shedding light on the darkest of places.

Paperback of the Week, The Observer
Critic Reviews

Brilliant, heart-breaking, funny.

Nina Stibbe
Critic Reviews

All My Puny Sorrows ... How Toews makes it all so funny is genius. Extraordinary.

Jessie Burton
Critic Reviews

Sadness might be the central theme of the novel, but it isn't the dominant tone. From its arresting opening sentence to its heart-catching last line, it is jaunty, matter-of-fact and full of zest and verve ... as in her other novels, Toews writes in a cool, deceptively simple voice that moves seamlessly between the memory of past joy and the sometimes surprising banality of present pain. This often edges towards poetry ... The novel she has written - so exquisitely that you'll want to savour every word - reads as if it has been wrenched from her heart.

Christina Patterson, Sunday Times
Critic Reviews

Toews' remarkable novel ... ironic for a book with self-annihilation as its subject, bursts with ramshackle, precious life. Full of eccentricities and casual, apposite quoting of literature, its tragicomedy and humaneness recall the best of John Irving.

Catherine Taylor, Sunday Telegraph
Critic Reviews

To write powerful fiction out of personal events of such magnitude is hard, surely almost unbearably so, but the result is a novel that reaches beyond the limits of itself.

Sophie Elmhirst, Financial Times

Miriam Toews is the author of seven novels: Summer of My Amazing Luck, A Boy of Good Breeding, A Complicated Kindness, The Flying Troutmans, Irma Voth, All My Puny Sorrows, and Women Talking, and one work of non-fiction, Swing Low: A Life. She is a winner of the Governor General’s Award for Fiction, the Libris Award for Fiction Book of the Year, the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, and the Writers Trust…

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