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GROUP READS > A Complicated Kindness - may contain spoilers

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message 1: by Lynda (new)

Lynda | 32 comments Mod
Please feel free to discuss A Complicated Kindness here. If your post contains spoilers, please let us know by placing a *spoiler alert* at the start of your post.


message 2: by Lynda (last edited Mar 23, 2011 10:35AM) (new)

Lynda | 32 comments Mod
I found these discussion questions online (via Faber & Faber) so I thought I would post them.

For Discussion

• ‘Ray and I never really succumbed to that type of extreme. He built his hutch and I listened to Zeppelin’ (page 29). How are Ray and Nomi effected by the disappearance of Tash and Trudie?

• ‘But your mom, he said. With your dad? I mean, quote me if I’m wrong, but . . . you think there was chemistry there’ (page 76). Travis is skeptical of Nomi’s belief in her parents’ relationship. How would you describe their marriage?

• ‘Basically, I think that Trudie and Tash were kind of the same person. And maybe me and Ray are too’ (page 118). Does this seem to be true? What traits do Nomi and Ray share? What kind of man is Ray? How would you describe their relationship?

• ‘Americans who come into our real town are either surprised or disappointed or both. They see some of us sitting on the curb smoking Sweet Caps, wearing tube tops, and they don’t like it. They pay good money to see bonnets and aprons and horse-drawn wagons’ (page 53). The physical contradictions between the ‘real town’ and the tourist village are obvious. What other contradictions are there within the community? How do Nomi, her friends and family cope with those contradictions? How does Nomi feel about East Village?

• Towards the end of the novel Nomi writes ‘I have a theory, though: It was grief that drew my mom to you and love that pulled her back' (page 243). What does she mean by this?

• ‘I’ve got a problem with endings. Mr Quiring has told me that essays and stories generally come, organically, to a preordained ending that is quite out of the writer’s control. He says we will know when it happens, the ending’ (page 1). Nomi’s difficulty with endings is a recurrent theme in the novel. Why are they so difficult for her?

• What do you make of the novel’s ending? What has brought Nomi to her own kind of faith and to ‘trust in a beautiful lie if it helps you get through life' (page 246)?

• Nomi’s narrative is episodic; she frequently digresses, recalls past events and speculates. How successful did you find this? How would you describe Nomi’s tone, and in particular her humour? Why do you think that Miriam Toews uses this particular style of humour and what effect does it achieve?

• ‘But there is kindness here, a complicated kindness’ (page 46). What does Nomi mean by ‘a complicated kindness’? For which acts do you find the phrase particularly apt? Why do you think Toews chose it as the title of her novel?

• Despite the isolation of the community in which she lives Nomi’s story is firmly anchored in the late 1970s/early 1980s. How does Toews do this?


message 3: by Lynda (new)

Lynda | 32 comments Mod
Summary: Nomi Nickel, 16-year-old Manitoba Menno(nite) girl, waxes nostalgic over the missing "better-looking half" of her fambly (her mother Trudie and her sister Tash) while yearning to live in NYC.

Overall, I didn't have any problem with the train of thought disjointedness of Toews' prose. She really captures the boringness of growing up in a small town and manages to offset the inherit sadness of the novel with humor. You'll laugh. You'll cry. You'll hate The Mouth (Nomi's uncle). And given ACK's open-endedness, I also think that it makes for some excellent book club fodder.

Nomi: "I've got a problem with endings. Mr. Quiring has told me that essays and stories generally come, organically, to a preordained ending that is quite out of the writer's control. He says we will know it when it happens, the ending. I don't know about that. I feel that there are so many to choose from" (page 1). Toews also appears to have some difficulties with endings so she leaves it up to the reader to decide which one they like best. Personally, I chose the ending with the highest body count. It just seemed like the Canadian thing to do. Maybe, I'll choose differently in the future.


message 4: by Carly (new)

Carly Svamvour (faganlady) I'm going to start this one tonight - I have it on audio. Doubt it will take too long to get through it.


message 5: by Lynda (new)

Lynda | 32 comments Mod
Yay! I've been dying to discuss the ending with someone.


message 6: by Carly (new)

Carly Svamvour (faganlady) The ending didn't do anything for me - soapy, sad, all of those things - but no cigar.

This book wasn't what I'd call a can't-put-it-down/a page-turner . . . I just didn't see the point in any of it.


message 7: by Carly (new)

Carly Svamvour (faganlady) Lynda wrote: "Yay! I've been dying to discuss the ending with someone."

OK - I'm finished - what did you think of the ending, Linda?


message 8: by Carly (new)

Carly Svamvour (faganlady) • ‘Ray and I never really succumbed to that type of extreme. He built his hutch and I listened to Zeppelin’ (page 29). How are Ray and Nomi effected by the disappearance of Tash and Trudie?

***** both of them hide in 'small stuff' to get over it. Neither want to admit something horrible has happened - the mother and sister have been ordered to leave and the father (a man?) has stood by and allowed his brother to do this.

The projects taken on by Ray and his daughter, Naomi, are small things to numb their minds - they can pretend these projects have more importance than they actually do.


message 9: by Carly (new)

Carly Svamvour (faganlady) • ‘But your mom, he said. With your dad? I mean, quote me if I’m wrong, but . . . you think there was chemistry there’ (page 76). Travis is skeptical of Nomi’s belief in her parents’ relationship. How would you describe their marriage?

***** Fake - how could a couple have a good marriage and part that easily?


message 10: by Carly (new)

Carly Svamvour (faganlady) • ‘Basically, I think that Trudie and Tash were kind of the same person. And maybe me and Ray are too’ (page 118). Does this seem to be true? What traits do Nomi and Ray share? What kind of man is Ray? How would you describe their relationship?

***** Ray doesn't exist - he's a dweeb who finds it easier to go along with the demands of others than to stand up and defend his family.

Even though the novel's fiction, doesn't the author want her readers to find these people believable?


message 11: by Carly (new)

Carly Svamvour (faganlady) • ‘Americans who come into our real town are either surprised or disappointed or both. They see some of us sitting on the curb smoking Sweet Caps, wearing tube tops, and they don’t like it. They pay good money to see bonnets and aprons and horse-drawn wagons’ (page 53). The physical contradictions between the ‘real town’ and the tourist village are obvious. What other contradictions are there within the community? How do Nomi, her friends and family cope with those contradictions? How does Nomi feel about East Village?

***** That was about the only interesting thing in the book - I can put myself in the place of these Americans - they expect to see a buncha' quaint scenes, horses and carriages, women dressed in dresses and bonnets, dutifully going about their day's work.

What they see is a buncha' young people sitting around smoking.

I'd go further with this thought - I'm not attached to any particular religion, and do not think much of these fundamentalist groups. But in all fairness? I think this story was a insult to the Mennonites.


message 12: by Carly (new)

Carly Svamvour (faganlady) • Towards the end of the novel Nomi writes ‘I have a theory, though: It was grief that drew my mom to you and love that pulled her back' (page 243). What does she mean by this?

Her mother suicided - she wanted to be with God. Did she suicide? Or did she change her mind?


message 13: by Carly (last edited Apr 06, 2011 07:32PM) (new)

Carly Svamvour (faganlady) • ‘I’ve got a problem with endings. Mr Quiring has told me that essays and stories generally come, organically, to a preordained ending that is quite out of the writer’s control. He says we will know when it happens, the ending’ (page 1). Nomi’s difficulty with endings is a recurrent theme in the novel. Why are they so difficult for her?

***** Maybe Nomi is the author - and I can see she has a problem with endings.

There had to be more of a fight than that.


message 14: by Carly (new)

Carly Svamvour (faganlady) • ‘But there is kindness here, a complicated kindness’ (page 46). What does Nomi mean by ‘a complicated kindness’? For which acts do you find the phrase particularly apt? Why do you think Toews chose it as the title of her novel?

***** Dunno' . . . but it was explained in the book - I forget where.


message 15: by Carly (new)

Carly Svamvour (faganlady) Well, there's my answers - to most of the questions.

Sorry to be such a party-pooper on this one - but, give me credit - I did stick it out to the end. Some people would have just closed the book.

(I did so with Galapogos - didn't see the point in that one at all)


message 16: by Carly (new)

Carly Svamvour (faganlady) Maybe it was the brevity of the novel - maybe that was the kindness . . .

hee hee!

;-)


message 17: by Lynda (new)

Lynda | 32 comments Mod
Carly wrote:

This book wasn't what I'd call a can't-put-it-down/a page-turner . . . I just didn't see the point in any ..."


I agree it wasn't much of a page turner. I found Room to be the only book last month that I had some difficulties putting down.


message 18: by Lynda (last edited Apr 06, 2011 09:30PM) (new)

Lynda | 32 comments Mod
Carly wrote: "Lynda wrote: "Yay! I've been dying to discuss the ending with someone."

OK - I'm finished - what did you think of the ending, Linda?"


SPOILER ALERT

I was just really curious as to whether or not you thought both of her parents committed suicide...or just her father...or just her mother...or neither...

I honestly thought the book would end with Nomi finding out that her mother had been murdered by The Mouth...


message 19: by Lynda (new)

Lynda | 32 comments Mod
Carly wrote: "• ‘I’ve got a problem with endings. Mr Quiring has told me that essays and stories generally come, organically, to a preordained ending that is quite out of the writer’s control. He says we will kn..."

I felt like the ending was really left up to the reader. Almost like Towes couldn't decide on an ending so she decided to not decide.


message 20: by Lynda (last edited Apr 06, 2011 09:27PM) (new)

Lynda | 32 comments Mod
Carly wrote: "Well, there's my answers - to most of the questions.

Sorry to be such a party-pooper on this one - but, give me credit - I did stick it out to the end. Some people would have just closed the boo..."




A Complicated Kindness wasn't what I expected at all. I was thinking murder/mystery in a small Mennonite town. I too found the book slow but I didn't dislike it. I actually found it quite funny at times. And I really liked Tash. Thanks for sticking it out!

Are there any books you'd like me to add to this month's to-read shelf?


message 21: by Carly (new)

Carly Svamvour (faganlady) Lynda wrote: "Carly wrote:

This book wasn't what I'd call a can't-put-it-down/a page-turner . . . I just didn't see the point in any ..."

I agree it wasn't much of a page turner. I found Room to..."


I am STILL waiting for Room to come into the library for me - darn it!


message 22: by Carly (new)

Carly Svamvour (faganlady) Did you guys already do Midnight at the Dragon Cafe?

Ignore me if you already did it.


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