"A comic take on what initially appears a most improbable topic for humour." ––The Globe and Mail By the author of All My Puny Sorrows, readers are welcomed to Have-a-Life welfare housing project (better known as Half-a-Life.) The welfare regulations are endless and the rat-fink neighbors won't mind their own business. Lucy Von Alstyne sends fictitious letters to her friend Alicia, pretending to be the father of Alicia's twins. When the two mothers and their five children set off on a journey to find him, facing along the way the complications of living in poverty and raising fatherless children, Lucy discovers this just may be the summer of her amazing luck.
Sixteen-year-old Nomi Nickel longs to hang out with Lou Reed and Marianne Faithfull in New York City's East Village. Instead she's trapped in East Village, Manitoba, a small town whose population is Mennonite: "the most embarrassing sub-sect of people to belong to if you're a teenager." East Village is a town with no train and no bar whose job prospects consist of slaughtering chickens at the Happy Family Farms abattoir or churning butter for tourists at the pioneer village. Ministered with an iron fist by Nomi's uncle Hans, a.k.a. The Mouth of Darkness, East Village is a town that's tall on rules and short on fun: no dancing, drinking, rock 'n' roll, recreational sex, swimming, make-up, jewellery, playing pool, going to cities or staying up past nine o'clock. As the novel begins, Nomi struggles to cope with the back-to-back departures three years earlier of Tash, her beautiful and mouthy sister, and Trudie, her warm and spirited mother. She lives with her father, Ray, a sweet yet hapless schoolteacher whose love is unconditional but whose parenting skills amount to benign neglect. Father and daughter deal with their losses in very different ways. Ray, a committed elder of the church, seeks to create an artificial sense of order by reorganizing the city dump late at night. Nomi, on the other hand, favours chaos as she tries to blunt her pain through "drugs and imagination." Together they live in a limbo of unanswered questions. Nomi's first person narrative shifts effortlessly between the present and the past. Within the present, Nomi goes through the motions of finishing high school while flagrantly rebelling against Mennonite tradition. She hangs out on Suicide Hill, hooks up with a boy named Travis, goes on the Pill, wanders around town, skips class and cranks Led Zeppelin. But the past is never far from her mind as she remembers happy times with her mother and sister as well as the painful events that led them to flee town. Throughout, in a voice both defiant and vulnerable, she offers hilarious and heartbreaking reflections on life, death, family, faith and love. Eventually Nomi's grief and a growing sense of hypocrisy cause her to spiral ever downward to a climax that seems at once startling and inevitable. But even when one more loss is heaped on her piles of losses, Nomi maintains hope and finds the imagination and willingness to envision what lies beyond. Few novels in recent years have generated as much excitement asA Complicated Kindness. Winner of the Governor General's Award and a Giller Prize Finalist, Miriam Toews's third novel has earned both critical acclaim and a long and steady position on our national bestseller lists. In theGlobe and Mail, author Bill Richardson writes the following: "There is so much that's accomplished and fine. The momentum of the narrative, the quality of the storytelling, the startling images, the brilliant rendering of a time and place, the observant, cataloguing eye of the writer, her great grace. But if I had to name Miriam Toews's crowning achievement, it would be the creation of Nomi Nickel, who deserves to take her place beside Daisy Goodwill Flett, Pi Patel and Hagar Shipley as a brilliantly realized character for whom the reader comes to care, okay, comes to love." This town is so severe. And silent. It makes me crazy, the silence. I wonder if a person can die from it. The town office building has a giant filing cabinet full of death certificates that say choked to death on his own anger or suffocated from unexpressed feelings of unhappiness. Silentium. People here just can't wait to die, it seems. It's the main event. The only reason we're not all snuffed at
Miriam Toews is beloved for her irresistible voice, for mingling laughter and heartwrenching poignancy like no other writer. In her most passionate novel yet, she brings us the riveting story of two sisters, and a love that illuminates life. You won’t forget Elf and Yoli, two smart and loving sisters. Elfrieda, a world-renowned pianist, glamorous, wealthy, happily married: she wants to die. Yolandi, divorced, broke, sleeping with the wrong men as she tries to find true love: she desperately wants to keep her older sister alive. Yoli is a beguiling mess, wickedly funny even as she stumbles through life struggling to keep her teenage kids and mother happy, her exes from hating her, her sister from killing herself and her own heart from breaking. But Elf’s latest suicide attempt is a shock: she is three weeks away from the opening of her highly anticipated international tour. Her long-time agent has been calling and neither Yoli nor Elf’s loving husband knows what to tell him. Can she be nursed back to “health” in time? Does it matter? As the situation becomes ever more complicated, Yoli faces the most terrifying decision of her life.All My Puny Sorrows, at once tender and unquiet, offers a profound reflection on the limits of love, and the sometimes unimaginable challenges we experience when childhood becomes a new country of adult commitments and responsibilities. In her beautifully rendered new novel, Miriam Toews gives us a startling demonstration of how to carry on with hope and love and the business of living even when grief loads the heart.Review“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 About the AuthorMiriam Toews is the author of five previous novels: Summer of My Amazing Luck, A Boy of Good Breeding, A Complicated Kindness, The Flying Troutmans, and Irma Voth, and one work of nonfiction, Swing Low: A Life. She lives in Toronto.
The stories in this collection are unifed by a sense of dislocation. In each of the pieces, there is an underlying element of disturbance and disharmony. Resolution threads its way through the narratives while the characters struggle to navigate conscious choices and come to terms with new realities. A perspective that views the complexity of life journeys as a manifestation of intentional decisions, circumstances beyond one's control, and the need to reflect upon the combination of both in order to become fully realized, drives the narrative voices.
A staggering, unnerving story collection about the lost members of the Boomer Generationchronic underachievers at work and love whose malaise is tempered by booze and cars. They seek solace in each other's company via weekend trips and wine-fuelled dinner parties when not conducting interventions or fixing their cars; through moments of seeming indifference, humor, and false bravado, their demeanors mask a disquieting rage at how they've lost their way and a burning, shattering desire to try to find it again.Dennis E. Bolen is a former parole officer and the author of six previous works of fiction in Canada.
"Min was stranded in her bed, hooked on the blue torpedoes and convinced that a million silver cars were closing in on her (I didn't know what Thebes meant either), Logan was in trouble at school, something about the disturbing stories he was writing, Thebes was pretending to be Min on the phone with his principal, the house was crumbling around them, the black screen door had blown off in the wind, a family of aggressive mice was living behind the piano, the neighbours were pissed off because of hatchets being thrown into their yard at night (again, confusing, something to do with Logan) … basically, things were out of control. And Thebes is only eleven."–from** The Flying Troutmans **Days after being dumped by her boyfriend Marc in Paris – "he was heading off to an ashram and said we could communicate telepathically" – Hattie hears her sister Min has been checked into a psychiatric hospital, and finds herself flying back to Winnipeg to take care of Thebes and Logan, her niece and nephew. Not knowing what else to do, she loads the kids, a cooler, and a pile of CDs into their van and they set out on a road trip in search of the children's long-lost father, Cherkis. In part because no one has any good idea where Cherkis is, the traveling matters more than the destination. On their wayward, eventful journey down to North Dakota and beyond, the Troutmans stay at scary motels, meet helpful hippies, and try to ignore the threatening noises coming from under the hood of their van. Eleven-year-old Thebes spends her time making huge novelty cheques with arts and crafts supplies in the back, and won't wash, no matter how wild and matted her purple hair gets; she forgot to pack any clothes. Four years older, Logan carves phrases like "Fear Yourself" into the dashboard, and repeatedly disappears in the middle of the night to play basketball; he's in love, he says, with New York Times columnist Deborah Solomon. Meanwhile, Min can't be reached at the hospital, and, more than once, Hattie calls Marc in tears. But though it might seem like an escape from crisis into chaos, this journey is also desperately necessary, a chance for an accidental family to accept, understand or at least find their way through overwhelming times. From interwoven memories and scenes from the past, we learn much more about them: how Min got so sick, why Cherkis left home, why Hattie went to Paris, and what made Thebes and Logan who they are today. In this completely captivating book, Miriam Toews has created some of the most engaging characters in Canadian literature: Hattie, Logan and Thebes are bewildered, hopeful, angry, and most of all, absolutely alive. Full of richly skewed, richly funny detail, The Flying Troutmans is a uniquely affecting novel. From the Hardcover edition.From Publishers WeeklyA road novel helped along by a lovably nutty cast, Toews's latest (after A Complicated Kindness) follows a ragtag crew as they crisscross America. Hattie, recently dumped in Paris by her moody, adjective-hating boyfriend, returns home to Canada after receiving an emergency phone call from her niece. Turns out, Hattie's sister, Min, is back in the psych ward, and her kids, 11-year-old Thebes and 15-year-old Logan, are fending for themselves. Thus the quirky trio—purple-haired, wise-beyond-her-years Thebes, recently expelled brother Logan and overwhelmed Hattie—embark on a road trip to the States to find the kids' long-missing father. What follows is a Little Miss Sunshine–like quest in which the characters learn about themselves and each other as they weather car repairs, sleazy motel rooms and encounters with bizarre people. Toews's gift for writing precocious children and the story's antic momentum redeem the familiar set-up, and if the ending feels a bit rushed, it's largely because it's tough to let Toews's characters go. (Oct.) Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. From Bookmarks MagazineBy turns hilarious and heartbreaking, Miriam Toews's new novel explores what it means to be a family in the wake of adversity. Described as "a genius at recording the everyday weirdness of young people" (Washington Post), Toews creates memorable, quirky characters whose dialogue ripples with sharp insight, deadpan irony, and pop culture references. A few critics had serious complaints about the screwball humor (contrived), the plot (predictable), and the characters (improbable and affected); the reviewer from the New York Times Book Review also pronounced Toews's slang-filled narrative "sloppy and gabbling, like a blog hastily banged out." Though The Flying Troutmans may not be her best book, its optimism and thoughtful treatment of family dysfunction will entertain readers who can overlook its imperfections.Copyright 2008 Bookmarks Publishing LLC
Between 2005 and 2009, in a remote religious Mennonite colony, over a hundred girls and women were knocked unconscious and raped, often repeatedly, by what many thought were ghosts or demons, as a punishment for their sins. As the women tentatively began to share the details of the attacks-waking up sore and bleeding and not understanding why-their stories were chalked up to 'wild female imagination.'Women Talking is an imagined response to these real events. Eight women, all illiterate, without any knowledge of the world outside their colony and unable even to speak the language of the country they live in, meet secretly in a hayloft with the intention of making a decision about how to protect themselves and their daughters from future harm. They have two days to make a plan, while the men of the colony are away in the city attempting to raise enough money to bail out the rapists (not ghosts as it turns out but local men) and bring them home.How should we...
From the acclaimed Giller Prize Finalist and Governor General’s Award Winner: a delightfully funny and charming second novel about Canada’s smallest town.Life in Winnipeg didn’t go as planned for Knute and her daughter. But living back in Algren with her parents and working for the longtime mayor, Hosea Funk, has its own challenges: Knute finds herself mixed up with Hosea’s attempts to achieve his dream of meeting the Prime Minister — even if thatmeans keeping the town’s population at an even 1500. Bringing to life small-town Canada and all its larger-than-life characters, A Boy of Good Breeding is a big-hearted, hilarious novel about finding out where you belong.From the Trade Paperback edition.From Publishers WeeklyIn the tradition of Lake Wobegon, Toews (A Complicated Kindness) gives us Algren, Manitoba, a town noteworthy because, with 1,500 colorful residents (give or take), it ranks as Canada's smallest town. For the town's painfully shy mayor, Hosea Funk, Algren's small population spurs both pride and constant anxiety. He tallies births, deaths and all other arrivals and departures to make sure the population hews to the magic number 1,500—less than that, and the town diminishes to a mere village, but more than that and Algren might outgrow its title. Funk's obsession isn't motivated just by bragging rights, but also by a family secret: on her deathbed, Funk's mother told him that the prime minister of Canada is his long-lost father, and that same prime minister has pledged to visit the smallest Canadian town. When single mother Knute McCloud and her kinetic young daughter return to Algren and Funk's own long-distance romance threatens to catch up with him, Funk's compulsive people-counting tests his already awkward human relationships. First published in Canada in 1998, this is a sweet, funny novel full of memorable, picaresque characters and unexpected drama. (June) Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. From BooklistSmall-town life is a lot more eventful than one might think, especially for the mayor of Algren, the smallest town in Canada. Hosea Funk works hard to keep the population at just the right amount to maintain the town's designation. His anticipated reward is a promised visit from the prime minister as part of the Canada Day celebration. He spends his time keeping careful track of births and deaths, arrivals and departures. In his obsessive attention to his population, he risks things of real value, but does come to realize what indeed matters. Algren may be small, but love and loyalty are in good supply, as are the odd characters, including a couple of unusual single mothers--Hosea's mom, Euphemia, and Knute, whose daughter is named Summer Feelin'--who make life there unique and wonderful. 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 HooverCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved