Author: Miriam Toews
Publisher: Knopf Canada, 2014
I seem to be on a roll these days with novels focusing on depressed siblings. Although that may seem like a bad thing to some people, I’ve been really happy with my book choices lately. Yes, this isn’t the most conducive kind of story to summertime funtime reading (these books are the antithesis to beach reads), but I’ve been quite impressed with my most recent picks. I’ve continued this winning streak with All my Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews.
As I mentioned above, it has a sad premise-two sisters who are extremely close: Yoli, a mother of two children with two different men and a struggling career, and Elf, a famous pianist with a doctor husband and lots of money. No, that’s not the sad part. Elf is clinically depressed and has made multiple, unsuccessful suicidal attempts–basically she just wants to die in peace (that’s the sad part). Coming from a Mennonite family that has suicide in its immediate history, Elf’s depression is not surprising to anyone else in the family but is, of course, just as devastating.
So why did I like this book so much? Toews (pronounced “Tayves”) is such a good writer. She could be describing the most boring thing on earth and I would still love to read it. She has a way of spinning humor into the darkest moments of her books, but not in a disingenuous way–it always seems fitting for the situation. She’s also a can-lit star winning numerous awards and always at the top of reader’s choice lists. So it’s not just me that feels this way.
Her characters are another thing that I loved about this book-more specifically, the mother of the clan, named “Lottie.” She was by far the most interesting and multi-dimensional person that appears in this plot. And for 3/4 of the book, she plays a supporting role, not appearing much unless it was one of Yoli’s flashbacks to childhood. However, in a unique turn, she becomes almost a central character towards the last few chapters of the story, breathing new life into her family, but more importantly, the story.
I don’t want to give anything away so I’ll stop there in my gushing. As for those of you who want to get to know Canadian literature a bit better (and it doesn’t have to painful!), please pick up a copy of this book so you get to experience some of the best our country has to offer.
About the Author
Miriam Toews (/ˈteɪvz/; born 1964 in Steinbach, Manitoba) is a Canadian writer. She won the Governor General’s Award for Fiction for her novel A Complicated Kindness, and the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize for The Flying Troutmans. In 2010, she received the Writers’ Trust Engel/Findley Award for body of work. She had a leading role in the feature film Silent Light, directed by Carlos Reygadas and winner of the Cannes Jury Prize, an experience that inspired her fifth novel, Irma Both. | Author Twitter
Text © 2014 Anne Logan
Re-print © 2014 The Black Lion Journal
Re-printed with permission.
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