By Miriam Toews
Four To-Be-Read Piles =
Totally Worthy of Your To-Be-Read Pile!
Reviewer: Liz Merton
At a summer library sale in a beach-front tourist town, I picked up this gem used for a buck, and it did not disappoint. First released by Counterpoint in 2004, A Complicated Kindness follows a teenaged Mennonite in Manitoba—one Nomi Nickel. After Nomi’s sister and mother leave the community, Nomi and her dad muddle along, and Nomi faces high school, the church community, relatives, neighbors, small-town life, a skanky boyfriend, and the general unpleasantness of being a socially awkward teen virtually alone. Her best friend is hospitalized with a mysterious condition and her dad has checked out and started giving away the home furniture.
Even if it’s a little dated in places (e.g., with musical references), this book is simply “well executed.” Toews creates this Mennonite world on the page and gives readers a sense of being right beside Nomi. Dialogue (handled unconventionally and well) cracks smart, natural, and believable. Whether you agree with Toews’s themes and the book’s philosophical undercurrents, A Complicated Kindness will creep about in your head for a couple weeks after you turn the last page. Toews has earned a number of awards for her work, and this novel will show you why.