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A Complicated Kindness

3.63  ·  Rating Details ·  14,286 Ratings  ·  985 Reviews
A landmark literary novel, balancing unbearable sadness and beauty in the voice of a witty, beleaguered teen-ager whose family is destroyed by fundamentalist Christianity
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published September 15th 2004 by Counterpoint (first published 2004)
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As I read Miriam Toews' A Complicated Kindness, I couldn't stop thinking about Richard Dawkins' assertion that religion is child abuse.

Looking around at our neighbours and friends, ourselves and our parents, it is easy to laugh off this idea. We may see our churches doing good works in the community; they may be providing relief for Haiti or some other disaster struck land; they may be providing shelter for the homeless or the physically abused; their beliefs and morality may be providing guidan
Meh... I know several of my esteemed colleagues highly rated this one but it just didn't do it for me. There were too many unanswered questions and not enough closure. So what happened to the mom and sister? What happened to father and her best friend? What did she end up doing with her new found freedom and life? And what was up with that thing from Mr. Quiring? I think I totally got lost on that part. I plodded along the book waiting for something to happen and it just didn't. I did enjoy her ...more
it was hard to let this book end. as the remaining pages dwindled and dwindled, i found more and more things to do instead of reading. maybe i should brush my teeth. maybe i should check my email. maybe i should sleep even though i have ONE PAGE TO GO.

part of it is that miriam toews is a genius at creating truly compelling characters. nomi is a gas. nomi is the kid you always wanted to be -- funny, smart, sassy, resourceful, a world-champion bullshit detector, unbelievably creative, sweet, lovin
May 07, 2009 Bonnie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Governor General’s Award 2004
Shortlisted for Giller 2006
Winner Canada Reads 2006

Half-way through reading A Complicated Kindness it struck me that the only way Miriam Toews could write in such an authentic voice would be if she herself had grown up in a Mennonite community. Sure enough, Miriam WAS raised Mennonite in small town Steinbach, Manitoba. There was a Mennonite Village Museum there when she grew up. “That is taken right out of my life,” she says in an Interview with Dave Weich (Nov. 8, 2
Jan 06, 2011 Andrea rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
“I hated it” was my loud outburst when a nice polite dinner conversation with friends turned to the discussion of this book. My outburst surprised me, not because it was loud and obnoxious since I am often guilty of being both, but because I didn’t know that I had such passion for this book! I had no idea I “hated it” until the words came tumbling out of my mouth.

Until that time, I think I would have described my thoughts about the book as ambivalent. I found the whole thing to be rather tediou
Nov 20, 2009 Nine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
(A slightly edited version of this review appears at The Rumpus.)

I started reading A Complicated Kindness on my last day in Barcelona. I ran away to Barcelona because of a girl. Also I’d been grumpy and mopey for the previous month or so, due to the whole uncertain future thing, so really the whole disappointment with the girl just kind of tipped me over the edge. I figured I could fritter my money away while moping in Edinburgh, or I could fritter it away travelling.

I’d never really bothered to
Nov 09, 2009 Terence rated it really liked it
Recommended to Terence by: Stefanie
My friend Stefanie (who recommended the book) and I share a love of reading but rarely do our Venn diagrams overlap except when it comes to novels about alienated, mixed-up teens.

Nomi Nickel joins Daniel Handler's Flannery Culp (The Basic Eight) as one of my favorite characters. Like Flan, Nomi is a bright, sympathetic teen-ager struggling to create a reasonably happy life for herself.

She's also, like Flan, one of the least reliable narrators in the history of literature.

The Nickels are Mennonit
Nomi Nickel is the narrator of this novel set in a rural Mennonite town in Manitoba, Canada. She lives with her religious father Ray since her older sister exited the repressive town, followed a few months later by her mother. Nomi is a rebellious sixteen-year-old who tells her story in flashbacks filled with cynical humor. She would love to escape to New York City, but does not want to leave her father alone. She also wonders if she'll burn in hell someday if she totally abandons the Mennonite ...more
Miriam Toews's third novel - and the first one I've read - won the Governor General's Award for Fiction and was nominated for the Giller Prize; it also won the 2006 edition of Canada reads, the first book by a female novelist to do so.

A Complicated Kindness is narrated by the sixteen year old Nomi Nickel, a Canadian girl living in a small town of East Village in Manitoba, near the American border, during the 1970's and 1980's. Young Nomi daydreams about living in New York City, the "real" East
I’ve let a few days pass since I finished this book, but I have to admit I’m still not sure what to make of it… It was highly recomended to me and proved to be a very interesting read but I feel like I missed out on much of its meaning.

Written in the voice of Nomi, it follows her trains of thought from one idea to the next, from past to present, from misery to humour, from memory to hope… I found the resulting account difficult to follow and get caught in. But at the same time it brings us strai
Jennifer (aka EM)
I appreciated this book much more on re-read (it's hard to pick a fave of hers - but at least I now have all three that I've read so far clearly in my mind). I am still slightly more impressed with the two that followed, The Flying Troutmans and Irma Voth, but it's only because ... because ... why? It's now the merest gradation of five star-dom that separate them.

There is no doubt that Nomi's 'voice' is a spectacular accomplishment. Distill it, and each drop is pure essence du Toews.

I think tha
Lise Petrauskas
This book was so funny and sad at the same time that I was on an emotional roller coaster the whole time I was reading it, bursting out laughing one minute and feeling all "awwww, my heart" the next. I finished it last night and was completely wrecked and yet immediately wanted to start it from the beginning. This is an oddly suspenseful book, too, for one that deals with such quiet subject-matter. Toews managed to write about very small, daily things and maintain my interest in the over all nar ...more
Anhui Durand
I liked Nomi and the fact that she gave no fuck about every bad thing that happened in her life. That is quite inspiring and I should probably do the same too. You wanna burn? Burn. You wanna get excommunicated? Get excommunicated.
Adrienne Michetti
Dec 06, 2014 Adrienne Michetti rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
It has been a long time since I bawled like a baby while reading but let me tell you, the last few chapters of this book have had me crying a river. The last paragraph was so tender and beautiful and sad it might be the most emotional and nostalgic ending I've ever read. Ever.

Nomi is one of the most personable narrators I've known and is definitely one of my favourites. I can't believe this story is over. I will miss her so much and will think of her often -- that is no exaggeration. I feel lik
Apr 04, 2016 Jelena rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really dislike child or teenage protagonists and know merely a handful of books where the concept was convincing enough for my needs. At the same time, I have quite a thing for highly dysfunctional families and religious oppression. I would say that those two factors cancelled each other out, giving my little liaison with “A Complicated Kindness” rather good chances.

Instead of a traceable plot, this story of a sixteen year old girl living with her father (after her mother and sister have left
Apr 30, 2016 Chinook rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Let's first just get out of the way how geeked out I was to see a reference to Reach for the Top, having myself been geeky enough in high school to have been at the provincial finals one year.

I really, really liked this book. It seemed to have the perfect balance between things I could relate to and things that the author was teaching me about a group of people that I have never known much about (in particular, I thought the Mennonites were much more like the Amish and I assumed that at the ver
Krystie Park
A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews is the story of a girl's journey through Mennonite culture, and her struggle to break free.

Nomi is a teenage girl living with her extremely religious father in a town known for simplicity and restriction from the outside world. After her mother and sister escape from their Mennonite community to pursue a more carefree and less religious lifestyle, Nomi is left questioning the real meaning of life. Nomi constantly tries to find release from her overbearing
Apr 23, 2008 Charlotte rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: precocious teenage narrators, God
I don't know, is this a three? It was a fun read. I loved the narrator and I wish she could have come over to hang out. But, there was a little too much drama in the plot. I mean, you already have a Mennonite girl whose mother and sister have left the community (shunning! there are days when I want to shun people) and who is having a spiritual/drug-induced personal crisis. How much more drama do you need? Affairs, best friends dying, sad old people, etc--no. You do not need these things. I'm gla ...more
Jan 26, 2009 Jaylia3 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I always fall in love with Toews's characters, in this case it's Nomi, a rebellious Mennonite teenager with a dry sense of humor whose family and home furnishings keep disappearing. Nomi lives in the "world's most non-progressive community", East Village, a small deeply religious town in Canada that practices shunning and attracts tourists from around the world who want to witness the simple life first hand, but Nomi's fantasy is to hang out in Greenwich Village with Lou Reed.I read this as slow ...more
Helena (Renchi King)
Nomi Nickel,šesnaestogodišnjakinja,pripovijeda nam mračnu priču o raspadu svoje
obitelji.Obitelj živi u gradiću East Village, u menonitskoj sekti.Oni su čudni i zatvoreni pripadnici te neobične religije koja zabranjuje veselje i sve moguće zabave.Sve je nepoćudno.Čak i mladost ne smije biti mladost.Oni su atrakcija za turiste koji svakodnevno dolaze promatrati njihov način života.
Mogućnosti za budućnost su vrlo ograničene-zapošljavanje u lokalnoj klaonici pilića ili udaja za nekog menonitskog mo
Aug 08, 2007 Marie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I devoured this book. Quirky Mennonite teenager in quiet Canadian town inches her way toward nervous breakdown while her family and furniture disappear. What I loved about this book was the unexpected wit and sarcasm. It's not happy, it's not even necessarily hopeful, but it sucked me in and I can't help but think of the character as a real person and hope that she pulled through OK.
3.5 stars. Set during the 70's, this book is told by a young and wayward Mennonite girl named Naomi "Nomi" Nickel. Nomi tells us her story of growing up in a small Mennonite community, being Mennonite and basically her distain for Mennonites. Her mother and sister have left, at different times in her life, and Nomi, being only 16 when her mother abandons them, remains with her father. Through her stories of random events of her life, she tries to understand and make sense of their departure. Dee ...more
Jun 29, 2008 AB rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to AB by: Courtney
One of the only books I've read recently that really did live up to its "It'll make you laugh -- and cry!"-style reviews. I did laugh, even as things became gut-wrenchingly, heart-stompingly sad.
It’s hard to grieve in a town where everything that happens is God’s will. It’s hard to know what to do with your emptiness when you’re not supposed to have emptiness. Miriam Toews, A Complicated Kindness.

A Complicated Kindness (published 2004) was the breakout book for Miriam Toews. Though a critical and commercial success (at least in Canada), its publication was not without some controversy. The novel is set in western Canada, in a small Mennonite community. The Mennonite faith traditionally
Darren Tang
Nov 17, 2015 Darren Tang rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
At the end of this novel, I truly felt a strong connection to Nomi. After every chapter I got a stronger sense of what it means to try and find out who you are in such a crazy world. It is not only refreshing but also heartbreaking to hear a voice like Nomi's, begin to arrive at the realization that her childhood is in the past. So honest, so captivating, so powerful, but yet so sad in almost a humourous way. I believe that it is Nomi's memories of seemingly insignificant events that struck a ch ...more
A Complicated Kindness written by Miriam Toews was definitely complicated to understand yet included many interesting aspects to it. The novel is about a prairie Mennonite teenage girl, whose sister and mother has been ex-communicated from the church. She is left to live with her father, Ray, and goes through her own teenage depression and angst. The result of her family’s departure is her taking drugs, smoking, drinking alcohol and skipping school. Miriam Toews captures Nomi’s emotions well, a ...more
Urban Crow
you know, it's really too bad that rohinton mistry won the governer general's award for a fine balance a few years back because now i expect every gg winner to be that good, which is why i picked up this book. having said this, a complicated kindness is a somewhat enjoyable read about a young woman marooned in mennonite town in manitoba while her family disappears, one by one, from around her. no doubt, this book stands in the canadian tradition of flat external landscapes with which tumultous i ...more
Okay, now that I have had a couple days to reflect on this book, I had to get on here and rewrite my review. I should know by now, not to write a review so soon after completing a book.

The good: It was quirky, funny, and odd. I did find it a book that I wanted to pick up and read.

The bad: The writing style. I don't know if this author was just trying to be cutting edge or what, but the layout of the book sucked. She jumped around with out cluing you in to what she was doing, so I often felt lost
I enjoyed this book so much! I am still not sure if I was supposed to find this book quite as funny as I did, but I can’t remember ever chuckling out loud so many times from a book before. I loved Nomi’s character: the way she told her story, her goofiness, her awkwardness, her insight about the people and world around her, the way she spoke her mind, her weird digressions of thought about random things that didn’t seem to have anything to do with anything, her exaggerations (She had to play cen ...more
Wow. What a unique and compelling narrator Toews creates in Nomi Nickel. She is captivating from start to finish.

This book is equal parts hilarity and heartbreak. It provides insight into a modern, Mennonite community in the Canadian Prairies and while the narrator is unquestionably critical of her town and community, I never felt that Toews gave an imbalanced perspective. The ultimate uncertainty we are left with as to the choices Nomi will make confirms that life is, as the title suggests, com
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Miriam Toews is a Canadian writer of Mennonite descent. She grew up in Steinbach, Manitoba and has lived in Montreal and London, before settling in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Toews studied at the University of Manitoba and the University of King's College in Halifax, and has also worked as a freelance newspaper and radio journalist. Her non-fiction book "Swing Low: A Life" was a memoir of her father, a vi
More about Miriam Toews...

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“Is it wrong to trust in a beautiful lie if it helps you get through life?” 66 likes
“Things shouldn't hinge on so very little. Sneeze and you're highway carnage. Remove one tiny stone and you're an avalanche statistic. But I guess if you can die without ever understanding how it happened then you can also live without a complete understanding of how. And in a way that's kind of relaxing.” 24 likes
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