“A Complicated Kindness captures the struggles of a family and its individuals in a fresh, wondrous style . . . [A] beautiful and bitter little masterpiece.” —The BelieverLeft alone with her sad, peculiar father, Nomi Nickel’s days are spent piecing together why her mother and sister have disappeared and contemplating her inevitable career at Happy Family Farms, a chicken slaughterhouse on the outskirts of East Village, a town founded by Mennonites on the cold, flat plains of Manitoba, Canada. This darkly funny novel is the world according to Nomi, a bewildered and wry sixteen-year-old trapped in a town governed by fundamentalist religion and in the shattered remains of a family it destroyed. In Nomi’s droll, refreshing voice, we’re told the story of an eccentric, loving family that falls apart as each member lands on a collision course with the only community any of them have ever known. “A darkly funny and provocative novel.” —O, the Oprah Magazine
A Complicated Kindness
List Price: $16.95
MIRIAM TOEWS is the author of eight books, most recently Women Talking: A Novel. 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 Marian Engel/Timothy Findley Award. She lives in Toronto.
A New York Times Editors' Choice selection
A Slate Book Review Favorite Books of the Year selection
A Boston Globe 'Best Fiction of 2014' Pick
A Ms. Magazine's Great Reads for Fall 2014 "Irresistible . . . its intelligence, its honesty and, above all, its compassion provide a kind of existential balm--a comfort not unlike the sort you might find by opening a bottle of wine and having a long conversation with (yes, really) a true friend." --Curtis Sittenfeld, The New York Times Book Review "In the crucible of [Miriam Toews'] genius, tears and laughter are ground into some magical elixir that seems like the essence of life." --Ron Charles, The Washington Post "[A] wrenchingly honest, darkly funny novel. (Grade: A)" --Entertainment Weekly "Touching and unexpectedly humorous." --Marie Claire "[T]he heartbreaking, valiant, very funny . . ." --Chicago Tribune "A harrowing and often very funny novel . . . Every page yields a surprise, a laugh, or a line that will make your breath catch in your throat." --Dan Kois, Slate "As jagged and ripped open as a freshly torn heart." --The Boston Globe "All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews: The premise of Toews's sixth novel, released to critical acclaim in Canada earlier this year, is simple and devastating: there are two adult sisters, and one of them wants to die. She's a wildly successful and in-demand concert pianist, but she longs for self-annihilation. It's a premise that could easily be grindingly unbearable, but Toews is a writer of considerable subtlety and grace, with a gift for bringing flashes of lightness, even humor, to the darkest of tales." --The Millions "A touching tribute and a captivating novel." --BUST "Heartbreaking." --Bustle "Funny and irresistibly warm . . ." --BuzzFeed "[A] sad, wise, often funny and very good novel." --Milwaukee Journal Sentinel "All My Puny Sorrows is a bittersweet story about those who survive and those who can't fight the current." --Minneapolis Star Tribune "Toews is an extraordinarily gifted writer, with unsentimental compassion for her people and an honest understanding of their past, the tectonic shifts of their present and variables of their future." --The Globe and Mail "Bold, brash and big-hearted . . . Toews writes from the point of view of Yoli, whose interior monologue reads like a cross between David Foster Wallace and Robin Williams if both were, in fact, a 40-something Mennonite woman with authority issues. She's a smart aleck with heart, a philosopher with a comic's timing." --The Dallas Morning News "Sisters should always want what is best for each other, but what if what one sister really wants is to end her life? This is the dilemma Yoli faces when her ethereal sister, Elf, attempts suicide . . . Despite the topic, this is not a dark novel. In fact, its gloom comes in the form of dark humor, and Toews does a wonderful job with her characters, none of whom are perfect, which makes them all the more real. It requires a talented author to take a serious subject and write such an engaging, enjoyable work." --Library Journal (Starred Review) "[A] triumph in its depiction of the love the sisters share." --Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) "[A] masterful, original investigation into love, loss and survival." --Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review) "Toews writes with a sharp and piercing eye, offering characters and descriptions which are so odd and yet so spot-on that the reader has to laugh, albeit reluctantly." --Booklist "[Miriam Toews] has a wry, funny voice that is the readers' steady companion. She also has an eye for the absurd and a perfect tragicomedic timing in delivery." --Christian Century Praise for Irma Voth " . . . endearingly odd and affecting . . . [Toews] writes with an instinctive grasp of the adolescent point of view." --Maria Russo, New York Times Book Review "The wryly funny title character keeps the story poignant." --USA Today "A strong and skillful novel . . . a parable of redemption, a powerful theme . . . that leaves the reader with a comforting glow of hope." --Annie Proulx, Financial Times "Funny and skilfully drawn, this novel shows the real appeal of tales set in unknown communities: that underneath the unfamiliar surfaces are the exact same people--a teenage girl trying to find out who she is and how to live, driven by familiar dreams and desires, and the same need for security, love and some sense of fulfilment." --The Guardian "A witty and thoughtful coming-of-age story . . . A novel about parenthood and sisterhood, and about redefining those relationships as people grow . . . it succeeds tremendously." --The Washington Independent Review of Books "Toews . . . combines an intimate coming-of-age tale with picaresque and extremely effective prose." --Publishers Weekly "Simultaneously poignant and humorous . . . perfectly captures this young woman's attempt to find her niche in a world so different from that in which she was raised . . . Toews's unique voice shines." --Booklist "A literary novel marked by charm, wit and an original approach to language." --Kirkus Reviews Praise for The Flying Troutmans The Rogers Writers Trust Fiction Prize "Not since Stephen Leacock have our neighbors to the north given us a writer as witty and wise as Miriam Toews . . . She is out to entertain with words, and the tale of the flying Troutmans is her best entertainment yet." --Los Angeles Times "This saga of bad luck and good company is a wry, scary, heartfelt ode to the traverses we have to make in life when we're at the end of our rope and there's no net below us." --Elle "Miriam Toews saunters along the line between comedy and grief as if she might lose her balance at any moment. But she never does. The precarious tone of her novels about fractured families is the crafted effect of a nimble writer . . . Toews is a genius at recording the everyday weirdness of young people, their capricious vacillation between screw-you sarcasm and tender pleading for affirmation." --Ron Charles, Washington Post "[Toews] shows with refreshing vividness how feelings of anger, betrayal and rage can simmer into something stranger and richer, somehow sadder and yet more joyful. This is a measured look at what it means to be pushed away by a loved one . . . but it's also a colourful portrait of a family trying to survive in its own unique way." --Carrie O'Grady, The Guardian "Ms. Toews delivers the story . . . with a fresh voice and liberal doses of humor . . . underneath lies a lovely tragicomedy about hope." --The Dallas Morning News "Toews is a master at conveying the crushing potential of conversation, with all of its unfortunate pauses and stutters and double meanings." --The Oregonian "A lovably nutty cast." --Publishers Weekly "Engaging, humorous, grim, and redemptive, this is essential reading." --Library Journal "Toews excels here at comedic sophistication, all while masterfully embedding explorations of madness, truth, and the immense sorrow that comes from caring for someone who is derailed by mania's devious tug." --Booklist "Toews may have invented a new genre, the romantic-depressive comedy, at which she excels." --Toronto Star "Toews writes . . . in a high-energy original voice filled with love, fear, humour and originality. Miriam Toews is an extraordinarily gifted writer, one who writes with unsentimental compassion for her people and an honest understanding of their past, the tectonic shifts of their present and variables of their future." --The Globe and Mail "Miriam Toews writes like an angel." --David Rakoff, author of Don't Get Too Comfortable Praise for Swing Low: A Life "The magic of Swing Low is that Toews makes a life that looked ordinary, even grindingly so, seem exalted." --Maria Russo, New York Times Book Review "Audacious, original and profoundly moving . . . A deeply affecting work . . . This is a document for the living, and its virtues are more than literary; healing is a likely outcome of a book imbued with the righteous anger, compassion and humanity of Swing Low." --The Globe and Mail "Toews' novelistic skills (the award-winning comic novels Summer of My Amazing Luck and A Boy of Good Breeding) are richly apparent in her evocative characterizations and in the deft drama of the narrative . . . A profoundly affecting book." --Toronto Star " . . . Toews offers a touching memoir." --Publishers Weekly "Manic depression, or bipolar disorder, is commonly characterized by hyperactive highs and extreme lows, the latter sometimes leading to suicide. One day Canadian Melvin Toews got out of bed, dressed, and headed out the door. He sat or knelt at a train track and waited for the train, which eventually came. A lifetime of manic depression with no real treatment may have led him to that sad end. How he may have come to that point was the question that prompted his daughter to write her father's "memoir." Using in part her father's writings, Miriam Toews chronicles her father's life effectively "in his own words." His strict Mennonite community and upbringing may have led to a life in which he had to endure his illness without treatment, and for a time he was successful. Both his work as an elementary-school teacher and his dedication to building the perfect home masked his problem for a while. When he was finally hospitalized, it probably was too late to help him cope with his illness." --Marlene Chamberlain, Booklist Praise for Summer of My Amazing Luck "A comic take on what initially appears a most improbable topic for humour . . . it works." --The Globe and Mail "Toews, author of A Complicated Kindness (2004), offers a mellow summer interlude that allows readers to revel in the not-so-simple pleasures of small-town life, and consider what matters most." --Danise Hoover, Booklist "The novel offers a humorous look at the absurdities of the Canadian welfare system while unwinding the intricacies of a sticky-sweet friendship." --Publishers Weekly Praise for A Boy of Good Breeding The McNally Robinson Book of the Year Award " . . . it's hard to read these charming tall tales and not root for the young Miriam Toews." --New York Times "A Boy of Good Breeding caught me at the throat, made me laugh and weep with sad-sweet joy . . . [The characters ] get under your skin, and finally, it seems, into your very blood, where they quicken the heart . . . Tonic for the spirit: a charming, deeply moving, unerringly human story, perfectly shaped and beautifully told." --The Globe and Mail "Reading [Toews ] is like climbing into a fizzy bath of lunatic humour . . . Buried in the mysteries of parenthood, love and death are at least a couple of home truths." --Toronto Star "An earnest, sweet-tempered narrative." --Kirkus Reviews "[A] sweet, funny novel full of memorable, picaresque characters and unexpected drama." --Publishers Weekly