A Complicated Kindness

Miriam Toews (Author)

Product Details

$16.95  $15.59
Counterpoint LLC
Publish Date
January 22, 2019
4.9 X 7.9 X 0.9 inches | 0.55 pounds

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About the Author

Miriam Toews is the author of A Complicated Kindness, winner of the Governor General's Award and finalist for the Giller Prize, A Boy of Good Breeding, and Swing Low: A Life. She has written for This American Life, and The New York Times Magazine. She lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba.


Praise for A Complicated Kindness

Winner of the Governor General's Literary Award

"Brilliant . . . there is beauty and compassion in [Toews'] portrayal of Nomi's struggle." --New York Times Book Review

"Brilliant." --Ron Charles, The Washington Post

"There is a Plautdietsch term, schputting, for irreverence directed at serious or sacred things. In conversation, as in art, Toews is a schputter; she likes to puncture anything that has a whiff of pretension or self-importance about it . . . [A Complicated Kindness] is a master class in schputting." --Alexandra Schwartz, The New Yorker

"Offering incisive reflections on life, death and Lou Reed, the black-sheep Nomi is clearly wise beyond her years, and her voice is unique. The road to anywhere else may be rough for her, but her angst-ridden journey is unforgettable." --People Magazine

"A darkly funny and provocative novel." --O, the Oprah Magazine

"A scathing, bittersweet and twistedly funny novel." --Seattle Times

"[A Complicated Kindness] offers a primer on Mennonite ways through her enormously appealing 16-year-old protagonist, Nomi . . . As a stand-in for the author, Nomi has an acidic wit and a keen eye for calling out hypocrisy . . . If Nomi portrays the rest of her family with more compassion than an angry teenager might, then A Complicated Kindness is a prototypical Miriam Toews novel. So much of Toews' work features her actual family in various forms: We meet versions of her mother, father, and older sister over and over again in her novels, and she's forgiving and admiring of all three even as they suffer under the weight of their religion." --Maris Kreizman, BuzzFeed

"Why the compulsion to laugh so often and so heartily when reading A Complicated Kindness? That's the book's mystery and its miracle. Has any of our novelists ever married, so brilliantly, the funny--and I mean posture-damaging, shoulder-heaving, threaten-the-grip-of-gravity-on-recently-ingested-food brand of funny--and the desperately sad --that would be the three-ply-tissue, insufficient-to-the-day, who-knew-I-had-this-much-snot-in-me brand of sad? I don't think so." --The Globe and Mail

"There have been a lot of Holden Caulfield knockoffs since 1951, but few authors have been as successful as J.D. Salinger in channeling adolescent angst in a way that's as charming as it is profound. Miriam Toews hits that elusive mark with her new novel. In fact, A Complicated Kindness just may be a future classic in its own right." --Philadelphia Inquirer

"Miriam Toews, the award winning Canadian author, embodies Nomi's voice with such an authentic and manic charm that it's hard not to fall in love with her . . . A Complicated Kindness captures the struggles of a family and its individuals in a fresh, wondrous style. Despite this complexity of family tensions, much of A Complicated Kindness is pleasantly plotless. The looseness of Nomi's worldview, the sometimes blurry nonfocus of it, the unexpected sideways humor, make this book the beautiful and bitter little masterpiece it is." --The Believer

"Who says novels aren't political? A Complicated Kindness by Canadian Miriam Toews, is the story of a wise, funny, unhappy teenager whose family is destroyed by fundamentalist Christianity." --New York Post

"Truly wonderful . . . A Complicated Kindness is . . . one of the year's exuberant reads. Toews recreates the stultifying world of an exasperated Mennonite teenager in a small town where nothing happens with mesmerizing authenticity . . . Toews seduces the reader with her tenderness, astute observation and piquant humour. But then she turns the laughs she's engendered in the reader like a knife." --Toronto Star

"Bold, tender and intelligent, this is a clear-eyed exploration of belief and belonging, and the irresistible urge to escape both." --Publishers Weekly

"Although Nomi's story is depressing, her wry observations reflect normal adolescent angst leavened with a distinctly parochial irreverence. Teens with real issues as well as those who would benefit by realizing that they don't have it so bad will find sadness and hope in Nomi's thoughtful musings and root for her survival. The story is a metaphor for those torn between a present lack of fulfillment and the fear of moving toward the unfamiliar-in other words, growing up." --School Library Journal

"Toews captures the spurts and lurches of adolescent growth in a tale as crude and fresh as its subject matter." --Kirkus Reviews

"A Complicated Kindness is just that: funny and strange, spellbinding and heartbreaking, this novel is a complicated kindness from a terrifically talented writer." --Gail Anderson-Dargatz, author of The Spawning Grounds

"It is a complicated kindness indeed that gives us this book. Miriam Toews has written a novel shot through with aching sadness, the spectre of loss, and unexpected humor. You want to reach inside and save 16-year-old Nomi Nickel, send her the money for a plane ticket to New York, get her a cab to CBGB's on the Bowery and somehow introduce her to Lou Reed. It might seem an odd metaphor to use about someone who has authored such a vivid, anguished indictment of religious fundamentalism, but Miriam Toews writes like an angel." --David Rakoff, author of Fraud

"The narrator of this novel, Nomi Nickel, is wonderful. She scrapes away the appearances in her small town and offers what she finds in a voice that is wry, vulnerable, sacrilegious and, best of all, devastatingly funny. This is Miriam Toews at her best." --David Bergen, author of The Case of Lena S.

Praise for Miriam Toews

"Toews has spent most of her career refining her portrayals of how disorder--both internal and societal--can so easily overtake the family. Now readers can observe this process of refinement through her first four novels, which Counterpoint Press reissued earlier this year. As Toews has matured as a writer, she's excelled at demonstrating how easily control can slip from our grasp, ceding ground to disorder--especially in the context of the family. She excels at engineering a constant sense of teetering on the edge of disarray, of occupying a position where it is possible to fall into for any number of things to go wrong in any number of different ways . . . Across Counterpoint's reissued quartet, Toews hones her skills, growing ever more exacting and forceful." --Bradley Babendir, The Believer

Praise for All My Puny Sorrows

A New York Times 2015 Holiday Gift Guide selection
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