A Complicated Kindness

A Complicated Kindness

Book - 2004
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In this stunning coming-of-age novel, award-winner Miriam Toews balances grief and hope in the voice of a witty, beleaguered teenager whose family is shattered by fundamentalist Christianity "Half of our family, the better-looking half, is missing," Nomi Nickel tells us at the beginning of A Complicated Kindness. Left alone with her sad, peculiar father, her 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. Not the East Village in New York City where Nomi would prefer to live, but an oppressive town founded by Mennonites on the cold, flat plains of Manitoba, Canada.
Publisher: New York : Counterpoint, [2004]
Copyright Date: ©2004
ISBN: 9781640091412
Branch Call Number: FICTION TOEWS...M
Characteristics: 248 pages ; 22 cm


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Nov 25, 2019

This book is beautifully crafted and beautifully written and yet it's full of jarring incidents and some characters. However, I think it is also one of the most powerful coming of age stories because the author manages to give the reader the sense that you, yourself, are living in the mind of a teenager. That level of skill and creativity left me feeling I had a real sense of the protagonist.

May 05, 2019

While reading this book I was unsure whether I was enjoying it nor whether I liked any of the characters (or even if I was supposed to like any of them). A couple weeks after finishing the book, I am still unsure about it. I will at least one more book by this author and see how it goes.

Apr 04, 2019

I found this a depressing novel of a confused and discouraged 16 yr old Mennonite girl whose family is divided by their religion. Nomi Nickle tells her story in vernacular of her upbringing.

Jan 02, 2019

Nomi is way too hilarious. I found the writing style to be unique and the ending was indeed bittersweet. Here are some quotes I liked. Spoilers ahead!

"Nomi, he said, you just need to wake up to the fact that other people need to know where you're going. But there's nobody behind me, I told him. And he said, reassuringly, that someday there may be." (75)

"I wondered if it was possible to donate my body to science before I was actually dead. I wondered if a disease were to be named after me what the symptoms would be." (75)

"And then she burned her diary in this ceremony that indicated the end of her little-girl period and threw the ashes into the Rat River, a properly embittered woman." (96)

"I went into the bathroom, puked, passed out in my bed, and briefly died, until the sun rose once again reminding me of renewed hope and promise and other abiding things. I needed to find something large and dark to put in my window or I would slowly die of fatigue." (200)

Nov 07, 2018

Toews paints for us a picture of life in a strict Mennonite community for a spirited teenage girl, called Nomi. It’s a place where every action is tightly controlled by the church leader, Nomi’s uncle, The Mouth. Nomi’s smart and irreverent. She wants to know who where what and why. Her questioning throughout the novel never yields any answers, only more questions. I found the whole thing tiresome and felt as frustrated as Nomi by the circumstances of her life. I didn’t finish the book. I couldn’t find the patience to wade through 200 more pages of rambling text. Perhaps if I had, I would have understood better what Toews was aiming for. This book was definitely not for me.

darelann May 11, 2018

A Complicated Kindness tells the heartbreakingly funny story of Nomi Nickel coming of age in a small Mennonite town in southern Manitoba. Miriam Toews depicts teenage angst and exasperation with such humour and authenticity that you'll be laughing and crying at the same time. A Complicated Kindness won the Governor’s General Literary Award when it was published in 2004 and Canada reads in 2006. It is still a popular and relevant read for 2018.

Mar 06, 2017

This is one of my very favourite books and my favourite Miriam Toews book. Such an interesting story of growing up in a truly bizarre setting, and how this affects a young mind and a family. The title is just excellent for this book, describing the complicated kindness of the people in the narrator's town. Even more compelling is that it is semi-autobiographical. A book that made me laugh and cry, sometimes on the same page, through finding humour in the darkest moments - Toewes's finest talent. Recommended if you liked Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls.

Feb 18, 2017

It is hard to write stream of consciousness book well, but Toews does. 16-year-old Nomi is lost but not just in the "typical teenager" lost sort of way. Two of the most important figures in her life have left her: her older sister and her mother. To top that all off, she lives in a conservative Mennonite town in Canada. She is not only struggling to understand the world around her as a typical teenager would but as a teenager going through a huge family crisis that leaves her questioning life, love, family, and what to do with herself.

The book is laugh-out-loud funny with Nomi's dry sense of humor and also tragically sad in its reflection of life and loss.

I feel it is thought provoking, introspective, and worth reading. I recommend this book to others.

Jan 30, 2017

It is hard to pinpoint why this book left me feeling 'eh', kind of flat. There were clever lines, funny moments and poignant scenes. For the most part, I found the juxtaposition of past and present vaguely annoying and slightly confusing, never quite sure if we were in a past or present moment. I can see why it would appeal to some, but I would not be quick to recommend it to many readers.

AmberKlassen May 07, 2015

This novel has a lot of truths in it, but is merely the depiction of an adolescent who did not like her life and took no control or responsibility for her own actions.

Disappointed because there is not much to read about this unique culture/religion in Canada.

The star rating is for personal reference.

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Jul 21, 2010

Coarse Language: This title contains Coarse Language.


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