Wednesday, February 07, 2007

A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews

A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews
Canadian Fiction

Touted by the CBC last year as being a book all Canadians should read, I was expecting something, ANYTHING from this book! Nomi, a teenager growing up in a Mennonite town in Winnipeg, is dealing with not only Menno life, but also with the fact that her sister and her mother no longer live with her. Her sister rode off with her biker boyfriend and her mother left for unknown reasons, both never to be seen again. So it's just Nomi and her father, and all the quirky residents of the town, including "The Mouth" who is Nomi's uncle, but also the minister at the church. Nomi describes life as a Mennonite and how there are so many rules which makes the kindness of the city complicated.
I thought that Toews did a fantastic job of capturing the essence of Nomi and making the reader believe that we really were listening to Nomi's thoughts. But one part of the book really ticked me off. I don't care what happened to the mother and the sister, they are family and I would expect them to try and keep in touch with their daughter/sister in at least some form. Even if it's through unmarked postcards, I'm sure Nomi could figure out who they were from. That part bothered me throughout the entire book, and was even confirmed at the end. It seems that this family is the type that is perfectly ok with abandoning each other and then making up excuses as to why that abandonment is ok. Maybe I'm missing the point of the book (knowing me, I probably am). But reading to me is about how I perceive it.
I also felt like the story went further backwards than it did forwards. There wasn't that much movement in the book. Just random thoughts from Nomi. And the ending wasn't enough of a revelation to justify the pace at the beginning of the book.




Lotus Reads said...

I haven't read the book, but I think a lot of readers were disappointed that it wasn't more readable and that it didn't have more substance. Did you come away from the book feeling like you understand the Mennonite community, their unique culture and customs, a little better?

Lauren said...

Hi Lotus!!

Actually, I came away understanding why people would want to run away from the Mennonite community. I actually felt bad for how the Mennonites were portrayed.