Chimera's Reviews > A Complicated Kindness

A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews
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Jan 03, 09

liked it
bookshelves: owned, across-cultures
Read in November, 2008

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 straight to Nomi’s internal conflicts and most guarded thoughts… It shows us probably better than any other type of account how she is struggling to understand and deal with the world around her, and find herself in the midst of it. In fact the book is as confused as she is herself.

The ‘world’ I just mentioned is pretty much limited to the Mennonite community and town she grew up in. Confined geographically and more importantly religiously, culturally and socially, Nomi knows very little of the world outside. Partly fascinated by the nearby city and disgusted by the ‘American tourists’ who come by for a view of a ‘traditionnal’, ’simple’, ‘rustic’ lifestyle, she has been brought up to believe she is in the only place which will ensure her salvation. But as she grows up and everything around her crumbles she has to find her own path.

This is a journey through self identity, growing up, fundamentalism, community vs. individual culture and the nature of kindness; probably better enjoyed on a second reading.
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