i wanted to create a shelf for this one. i would have called "how-the-young'uns-write." but then i faltered. it seemed dismissive. maybe there is somei wanted to create a shelf for this one. i would have called "how-the-young'uns-write." but then i faltered. it seemed dismissive. maybe there is something slightly MFA-ish and a bit "trendy" about the way this book is written, but, really, this is beautiful, brave, and virtuoso writing, and it should be judged as its own writerly thing.
elyria, the protagonist, is a very young 28 year old. she speaks (writes) in lulling run-ons that are often startling and beautiful, and sometimes so poetic and original they make your heart sing. sometimes they are hilarious and then you laugh. she writes of all the things young'uns with broken hearts, a truncated view of their future, and a disembodied desperation write: time, relationships, parents, siblings, love, not love, the big wide world with its big wide being-lost-in-ness, and death.
(MINOR SPOILER THAT GETS REVEALED SOON ENOUGH) elyria's particular relationship to time, death, and disembodiment is connected to the death of her sister ruby. (END OF SPOILER) since elyria talks mostly from a place of disconnection and inner sense-making rather than story-telling, we don't learn much about her life prior to the present of the narration, but we learn enough to understand that it wasn't pretty. she doesn't tell us a lot about what she was like as a child, but you get a sense she was one of those kids who thought all the time about dying. you know those kids. they are the heroes of the literature you love best. my favorite are mick kelley, frankie addams, holden caulfield, and nomi nickel.* if you can imagine mick, frankie, and holden at 28, you get elyria.
it takes a really good writer to pull off a mick, a frankie, a holden, a nomi. the despair of children is not for the faint of heart.
fact is, some of us carry those children inside us all of our lives. we manage to survive by learning to love them. cuz those children are too formidable, too unbelievably cool to go away. what loss that would be! so we make peace with them and their deathlust the best we can. we become the mommies and daddies who weren't there or weren't enough, and, as snotchcheez says (i'll paraphrase), we take 'em home and give them a warm blanket and a bowl of chowder. for life.
well i finished it. this is who i think should read this book: peter and emilie. i'll recommend it to them with the GR recommendation tool. also juliewell i finished it. this is who i think should read this book: peter and emilie. i'll recommend it to them with the GR recommendation tool. also julie, because reading miriam toews helps you write.
yesterday i wrote this book had tremendous levity and it does! it really does! but fuck man fuck fuck fuck it's all the sads and all the heartbreaks packed into one little book made out of levity.
i can relate exactly none at all to the main themes of the book, i.e. 1. sisterhood and 2. worrying about someone's killing themselves on you and not knowing whether to let them go or keep them alive when their life is unadulterated misery, for all sorts of personal reasons that are too personal even for me to disclose here. but i can relate to the heartlessness and preachiness and horribleness of psychiatric wards and THANK YOU ms. toews for telling the world that psychiatrists and psychiatric nurses are for the most part asshats.
and i can relate to losing someone and missing the fuck out of them, especially today, for some strange alignment of stars and planets, because the family of a dear friend who recently died is visiting the states and it's so sad to think of them, father and two teenage kids, driving their little hearts out from state to state and beautiful place to beautiful place and having to keep themselves from bawling their eyes out because mom is not here and she won't be home when they go back either. i miss their mom too, in fact i'm pretty incredulous that she's gone, and i want her back kind of badly, so, yeah, all the sads.
but i didn't shed a single tear in the reading of this book and i laughed out loud so, so much. so this is what this book may do for you, let you grieve and laugh, both at the same time. and then when you put it down you might not be able to do much of anything at all, which is exactly like the narrator, yoli, who can do so little she can only read books and drink booze and fuck strangers, only one of which i recommend.
----- i am still reading so this is not a review, but:
because of my history and psychological makeup, and because i have a cold cold heart, i cannot connect to the plight of someone trying to keep someone they love alive, but:
this book is carrying me on the sole strength of its amazing writing, which:
you won't probably appreciate unless (as jakaem said somewhere in her review) you have read a couple of books by this author. the voice of the narrator is brain scattered, fucked up, pained, and hilarious, and you will miss a lot of it if you don't know that toews can do other, much different voices. it is the perfect tone for this book, in order for it not to be devastating, for it to be what it is, that is:
a masterpiece of levity.
and maybe you won't find levity in it, because a) you haven't read other books by toews b) you care about keeping alive people you love and c) you have a warm warm heart. and maybe, on occasion, you will find the language a bit throwaway-ish. so, at least, believe me when i say that:
toews writes with the language of the angels. if the words are on the book, they belong there. fully. they are the only words that should be there. but no:
because the language of the angels is so perfect that it transcends uniqueness. it is generous. so yeah, substitute any word and it won't matter. it's a book written by angels. it stands alone, cloudy, towering, eventually raining soft winnipeg rain. ...more