A Complicated Kindness
A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews is a novel of fierce originality and brilliance from the celebrated Canadian novelist, author of The Flying Troutmans and All My Puny Sorrows.
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We’re Mennonites. As far as I know, we are the most embarrassing sub-sect of people to belong to if you’re a teenager.
Sixteen-year-old Nomi Nickel longs to hang out with Lou Reed and Marianne Faithfull in New York City’s East Village. Instead she’s trapped in East Village, Manitoba: a town with no train station, no bar, and where job prospects consist of slaughtering chickens at the Happy Family Farms abattoir.
Since her mother and sister have left home, Nomi lives with her father, Ray, a sweet yet hapless schoolteacher. Fighting against the restraints of the town, Nomi’s longing for a future of opportunity and hope sets her on course towards a climax at once startling and inevitable.
The most engaging narrative voice I've come across lately (right up there with Holden Caulfield and Huck Finn) is that of Nomi, the teenage girl at the centre of Miriam Toews's A Complicated Kindness (Faber) - a darkly hilarious novel set in an oppressive Mennonite community.
'Miriam Toews herself grew up in a Mennonite village, and is hilariously adept in her evocation of being stuck in a town with no bars ... A Complicated Kindess reads like born-agin Garrison Keillor ... It's a timely assault on the hypocrisy of religious fanaticism.'
'The story veers between past and present, horror and hilarity, with Nomi's biting wit enhancing the ambient lunacy.'
'Told with the slouchy, cool grace of a misfit teen, this sparkly novel is destined to become a coming-of-age classic.'
'A fabulous coming-of-age novel about a girl growing up in a repressive Mennonite community. Witty and wise.'
'This novel is exquisitely written and faceted. It combines impossible qualities effortlessly - is blithe and earnest, heartbreaking and humorous, and its expression is as raw as it is delicate. It is a story of family disintegration; faith's rupture, recovery, and reckoning; love's inhibiting aspects and liberty's damages. Toews creates a central voice that is adolescent and wise, haunted, disarming and endearing. From beginning to end the book is unusually calibrated and incredibly compelling.'
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