A Complicated Kindness

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A Complicated Kindness

by Miriam Toews

April 20, 2004 | Hardcover

A Complicated Kindness is rated 3.3462 out of 5 by 78.
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 as A 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 the Globe 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 birth is because that would reduce our suffering by a lifetime. My guidance counsellor has suggested to me that I change my attitude about this place and learn to love it. But I do, I told her. Oh, that’s rich, she said. That’s rich. . .

We’re Mennonites. After Dukhobors who show up naked in court we are the most embarrassing sub-sect of people to belong to if you’re a teenager. Five hundred years ago in Europe a man named Menno Simons set off to do his own peculiar religious thing and he and his followers were beaten up and killed or forced to conform all over Holland, Poland, and Russia until they, at least some of them, finally landed right here where I sit. Imagine the least well-adjusted kid in your school starting a breakaway clique of people whose manifesto includes a ban on the media, dancing, smoking , temperate climates, movies, drinking, rock’n’roll, having sex for fun, swimming, makeup, jewellery, playing pool, going to cities, or staying up past nine o’clock. That was Menno all over. Thanks a lot, Menno.
—from A Complicated Kindness

Format: Hardcover

Dimensions: 256 pages

Published: April 20, 2004

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0676976123

ISBN - 13: 9780676976120

Found in: Fiction and Literature
Your heart instantly goes out to 16-year old Nomi Nickel in A Complicated Kindness. She is heartbreakingly sad but also devastatingly funny. In her quest to get out of her stifling Mennonite town you truly want to reach out and help her at every turn.

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Reviews

Rated 4 out of 5 by from "I dug the shunning story." Actually, I enjoyed the whole book! The humour is sharp, the sadness profound and the disintegration of a family is heart wrenching. It's a complicated life in a deceivingly simple town for Nomi Nickle, a girl struggling with the loss of her sister and mother to a faith and fate that she fears. Everyone (except perhaps Nomi's father, Ray and Nomi's sick friend Lids) is quick to pass judgement. That Nomi survives this oppression at all is a triumph worth celebrating! She stumbles along the way and develops a wry and sarcastic sense of humour (I think) as a self-preservation mechanism. That her only remaining family member is her emotionally absent father who likes to clean the dump and get rid of their furniture is surely cause for concern! What teenager wouldn't feel compelled to drink, smoke and let loose with a wise-crack or two? The comedic narrative of this novel is in complete contrast to the devastation of the family nucleus. It echoes like a plea and gives this novel a unique and haunting voice. I didn't like the ending but that was a plus in the case of, "A Complicated Kindness". Life, like this story, isn't always a fairytale. Things don't always work out the way we would like them to in the end.
Date published: 2008-10-16
Rated 3 out of 5 by from You'll feel the sadness and emptiness Interesting but depressing story. Read it in small doses so that the sad, emptiness of the story would not have the same affect on me.
Date published: 2008-01-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Sad, hilarious, raw, wonderful, and brilliant I was so surprised to see the low ratings people had given this book. I laughed out loud, cried out loud, read sections to innocent bystanders out loud. I'm not sure of the last time I was so totally absorbed by a book. Miriam Toews will be remembered as one of Canada's best - I highly recommend this book!
Date published: 2007-11-30
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Just couldn't get into it I have heard that this was not a great book, and I'd have to agree (I gave it a chance, but only made it halfway). Nomi Nickel is definitely not the modern day Holden Caulfield.
Date published: 2007-11-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Complicated Novel I absolutely loved this book. It was very easy to read and I finished it quickly, but it has stayed with me for days after. The multiple layers unfold very slowly. Although the writing style is breezy and often seems only to be reflecting the surface, the truer, deeper meanings are also carefully revealed. I believe that the author has really captured what it is to be a teenager - one who understands much more than she is given credit for, and whose false front of cynicism covers a truly optimistic spirit.
Date published: 2007-11-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Heartbreakingly Sad and Devastatingly Funny Your heart instantly goes out to 16-year old Nomi Nickel in A Complicated Kindness. She is heartbreakingly sad but also devastatingly funny. In her quest to get out of her stifling Mennonite town you truly want to reach out and help her at every turn.
Date published: 2007-09-21
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A Humbling Read I enjoyed this read as it was a small look into the life a little girl growing up in a Mennonite community from the girl's point of view. I saw myself many times throughout this book. I felt very real!
Date published: 2007-07-30
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Couldn't stand it I did not think Nomi's belittling of others was in the least bit witty or entertaining. I wouldn't have bothered finishing it if it wasn't for my book club.
Date published: 2006-11-12
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Sparkling... As a person of Mennonite descent (though NOT proud of that), I found this book thoroughly engrossing, incredibly witty, and also provocative and often very funny. Miriam Toews writes with an insight and wisdom beyond her years. This is a sparkling little crystal of anxiety and hope, in equal measure. HIGHLY recommended!
Date published: 2006-10-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved it! Fantastic - went out and bought her other books.
Date published: 2006-09-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Deserving of all it's awards Toews opens the eyes of Canadians in this story of a menonite community trying to survive in the modern world. At first I had trouble believing that any of these events could actually happen. However, after talking to friend who grew up in similar circumstances it was made clear to me that Toews didn't go over the top at all. I found the story to be very interesting and felt that I learned a little about Canadian history in the process.
Date published: 2006-08-02
Rated 2 out of 5 by from A great concept - hate the writing style I just could not get into this book. It was slow moving and just plain boring. The overall concept of the book has a lot of potential but I do not recommend this book.
Date published: 2006-08-01
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great book This book is witty, comical and morbid all the same time. The reader gets to see life through the eyes of someone who is not understood in their own culture or by society at large.
Date published: 2006-07-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Exceptional work of fiction I finished reading this book about a year ago and I still feel that this is one of the most amazing novels I have ever read. I find that it captures you in the narrative so well that it's hard to decipher reality from fiction. The characterization is so exceptional that even if the plot does not come to a dramatic finalization you're still completely satisfied because you have formed such a strong bond with the main character (she is extremely witty and intellegent) that you don't really want it to end. I'm seriously contemplating picking it up and reading it from beginning to end again.
Date published: 2006-07-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from amazingly accurate For those interested, the places Miriam Toews writes about is an actual place. The town is called steinbach, and its located in Manitoba Canada. Growing up in that area, i was surprised at how accurate her book really was considering the timeline.
Date published: 2006-07-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A must read! Clever and witty from the get-go. One cannot help but chuckle at the obscure humour, while at the same time feel sympathy for the anguished Nomi. It is both a funny and devastatingly heartbreaking story that leaves the reader entranced until the bittersweet ending.
Date published: 2006-07-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Touchingly Tragic Simply written and yet hard to put down. A Complicated Kindness pulls at your heart strings and draws the reader in.
Date published: 2006-07-13
Rated 1 out of 5 by from A Let Down I generally love the "Heather's Picks" selections. I had high expectations for this book and was left dissapointed. I finished the story feeling like I had missed some important section, idea or message. I was left feeling like there was no resolution to the story and the charachters just hung in the air. I find it hard to believe this was a prize winner.
Date published: 2006-07-11
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Very disappointing This book started slow and never really took off. The story of Nomi's life could have been very interesting, but it was told in a very uninteresting way. It was one of those books that you can put down and never go back to.
Date published: 2006-06-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Silent Masterpiece Miriam Toews can tell a story like no other! This great piece consist of quiet and descending humour of real life according to Nomi Nickle, a teenager growing up in Menno environment. I felt Nomi struggle to avoid her life direction to resemble that of chickens at happy farm. Nomi's journey left me in tears and laughters at the same time, because life is just heartbreakingly funny. I am now more concious of my surrounding after taking the road with Nomi. From the nicely design cover, to the refreshingly set up text, this book will not disapoint you one bit! If you're a fan of Holden Cauffield, you'll love Nomi Nickel. Brilliant. Absolutely Brilliant!
Date published: 2006-06-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from my favorite read of 2005 I loved this book. Original, fresh, funny. I can see why it won the CBC Canada Reads contest for best novel of 2005.
Date published: 2006-06-09
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Frustrating how disappointing it is This book was so over hyped. I kept waiting for it to get better, but it was very boring. Too much description over unimportant and mundane events... Not enough character development and no plot. I feel like I wasted my money because I know I will never read it again...
Date published: 2006-06-05
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Who knew? This was a title I picked up and put down at the bookstore for over year, before it was chosen for my bookclub. While the novel was written in an interesting style, the content was dull, depressing and unfortunate. I didn't care about the characters, and the only point of interest was insight into amish life, which lifestyle was a bit suprising, but otherwise uninspiring. Heather is usually bang on with her "picks" ... but this one was a miss.
Date published: 2006-05-31
Rated 4 out of 5 by from "Poignant" Toews delivers teen angst. My 15 year old daughter recommended this book to me and it spoke to us both. A great read for anyone.
Date published: 2006-05-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent read, completely in love with it I'm in love with this book!! Miriam has such a great sense of humour and is able to tell the story is such a way that keeps you wanting more. I love everything about Nomi and there's just something about Ray that I feel for. I never wanted this book to end, I could just keep going. It seems like simple everyday things but they unfold into these great little stories. I just love how Miriam writes and I can't get over how funny she is. Excellent read, completely in love with it!!!! Everyone should read it!!
Date published: 2006-05-31
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Oddly Entertaining I had huge expectations for this much hyped story, but it was a bit of a slow read. Interesting post-modern style on a rare subject.
Date published: 2006-05-31
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Disappointing This was the chosen book for my book club and I found it difficult to get through. I kept waiting for the good part and it never came! The plot kept following all the mundane parts of the main character's life in fine detail and then when anything hugely significant happened ( 1st sexual experience, father leaving, mother's affair, boyfriend's affair, revenge on boyfriend etc etc) there was no detail at all and it was often confusing as to whether it happened or not. Perhaps my expectations were to high for this book or maybe it's just not as good as it's reputation. Either way, I did not enjoy this book.
Date published: 2006-05-30
Rated 2 out of 5 by from COULDN'T GRAB MY ATTENTION i've heard from so many others that this book was amazing. in my case it could have been better. the style of writing (dialogue being in paragraph form) turn me off. it was hard to follow and i was constantly zoning in and out. theme and idea was good
Date published: 2006-05-21
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Powerful writing! I grew up near the community MT grew up in, and I find this book very realistic to the culture of that area. I was very very moved by the situation this young woman finds herself in. It was powerfully written and deeply moving. Not a happy book, but really unsightful and realistic and deeply touching. I loved the writing style. We had a great discussion at my book club on this book. I plan to read all fo MT's books! (IMHO - this was a much better book on a similar theme/note to "Catcher in the Rye")
Date published: 2006-04-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved it I am not sure if I read the same book as some of the negative reviews. I am so thrilled this book has won Canada Reads. I read it awhile ago and was touched by the raw emotion and truth that flowed throughout. I enjoyed the protagonist and found myself feeling her every emotion as I read. I was captivated through and through.
Date published: 2006-04-22
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Excellent writing Not a book for everyone, but the writing is absolutely fantastic. For Towes' mastery of the literary craft, it's a great read. As for 'destined to be a classic' - I'm sure it will be one of those books that will be read, analyzed and critiqued in high schools and universities across Canada. Or at least it really should be.
Date published: 2006-04-21
Rated 1 out of 5 by from It stinks! My dog could have written a better book The worst book i've read in a long long time. It's awful. I just thought I would spare anyone from picking up this book. I'll never get those minutes back that I spent wasting time reading this.
Date published: 2006-03-31
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Skip it. I read this as part of a book club selection. I really don't understand the praise this book is getting. It's depressing and a tad cynical. An easy read I would not recommend.
Date published: 2006-03-18
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great rewards if no Expectations If you are looking for a story with a beginning, middle and end you might very well be dissappointed in this book. If you want to laugh, cry and get a bigger meaning from life than this book is for you. Relax, open your mind and have a really good time reading this book.
Date published: 2006-03-09
Rated 1 out of 5 by from How depressing There is a reason why people are leaving the mennonite community in this novel and why they need anti-depressants. Reading the book depressed me. It was boring but I was determined to finish the book and now I wish I hadn't.
Date published: 2006-02-26
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Quickly became a favourite... When I first began to read this book, I thought that it was very slow and kind of boring. As the author depicted through this teenage girl, feelings of deep emotion and teen angst, however, this book quicky became a favourite of mine. Being a teenager myself it was really interesting to hear about how some of the hormonal feelings are completely universal even though the settings of people's lives can be completely different. The main characters monologues in the story are absolutely touching, the detail and depiction of the simplest events in this girl's troubled life wrentch your heart out at times. It is so beautifully written and I recommend this book to anybody who appreciates good literature and a good cry simply because of the depth at which the events touch. I absolutely the loved the style in which this book was written, it's really different from any other book that I've ever read and I simply cannot say enough good things about the emotinal range of this story. I have talked to lots of my friends that didn't enjoy it but for me it was just the ideal book for everything that was going on for me at the time. And unlike some others that have commented on this book, I loved the ending and I thought it left just the right taste in your mouth. Just really opened my eyes to the incredible power of other people's words! Enjoy!
Date published: 2006-01-20
Rated 2 out of 5 by from No plot I read this book after it was recommended to me. It's not really a story with a plot, it's basically the main character rambling. Which was amusing at times, but the story never really went anywhere, and the ending was pointless and just plain bad.
Date published: 2005-12-12
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A Complicated Ending Toews' (pronounced Taves) novel may at first seem like an arbitrary attempt to explore the state of mind of a teenager living in the Mennonite community. However, as you hold on to the the faith that you have for the book and keep on reading, you will begin to see how she reflects much of her own childhood in this novel. It is not an easy read as there are many clues and hidden messages throughout the book. The ending will be especially hard to a novice reader, as further analysis will be required upon understanding the brilliant theme of the story. Toews takes her readers along through a journey exploring the fine line between love and faith.
Date published: 2005-12-10
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Canada should NOT read this I was terribly disappointed reading this book! It was soooo boring, and I had to force myself to get through it!
Date published: 2005-12-06
Rated 3 out of 5 by from A Complicated Kindness The struggle of our heroine with her loss of faith combined with the loss of her mother and her sister set the stage nicely for her isolation and estrangement in her community. Her rebellion against everything that had once been safe and true and her father's initial inablity to understand or connect with his remaining family member was tragic to watch as she continued to self-destruct. You were left wondering right up until the end how it would finish, and then wham bang, in 20 pages - all neatly wrapped up. Disappointing after the care given to weave the characters throughout the book.
Date published: 2005-12-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from excellent piece of writing this is an excellent, beautifully written book! the ending, in particular, is thought provoking and 'complicated' just like life is ... an honest piece of life.
Date published: 2005-09-06
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Do not buy this book. Take it out of the library. This was a disappointing book! I was extremely disappointed in the ending. I had to re- read the last 20 pages to understand the book. I thought I misunderstood or missed the ending. I do not understand why it has been on the best sellers list for so long.
Date published: 2005-08-31
Rated 1 out of 5 by from BORING!!! A total waste of money. I read about 40 pages and gave up, the characters were uninteresting and I really didn't care about any of them. With such great reviews I expected better.
Date published: 2005-07-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Depressing A superbly written but sad and depressing slice of a conservative, fundamentalist and patriarchal society from the viewpoint of the protagonist, Nomi Nickel, who is trying to come to terms with familial and personal collapse, her mother's marital unfaithfulness and eventual abandonment of the family, as well as her father's inability to deal with these realities. The young girl is left to fend for herself and the reader shares in her pain, alienation, depression, drug abuse and eventual promiscuity. Toews shows that when little bits of the familial and societal unravel and become alienated, the personal is also in danger of falling apart. Her characters are a masterful blend of dazed and vacuous people who claim to be saved by the grace of God, but who repudiate this hopeful reality with lopsided self-effort, dishonour, alcoholism, self-loathing, escapism and fabricating delusional stories, which Toews calls a ' beautiful lie ' . Those who manage to escape either disappear without a trace or go off to sift through the debris that others have left. None seem to be able to find closure, healing and rebirth. The irony is that Toews describes a society that prides itself on its Biblical beliefs yet the characters in this story rigidly adhere to narrow-minded and bigoted ideologies instead of authentic Christian lessons and truths. Toews exposes the unhealthy idealisation of religion, marriage, parenthood and being Mennonite with loathing, anger, cynicism and wry bitterness. This is a poignant story of imminent tragedy that suggests to the reader that being ‘religious’ or part of a church society is no guarantee to loving oneself, others or God.
Date published: 2005-07-14
Rated 2 out of 5 by from A complicated snore Truly wasted my money this time. Had been looking forward to reading this book after reading the first page. Yes there are a few beautifully written paragraphs but I found this book to be very depressing. Could someone not help this kid? I would have loved it if she had finally been able to contact her mom or her sister. Maybe she did but to be honest it was so boring by the end that I just skimmed thru the last 50 pages.
Date published: 2005-06-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from excellent Beautifully written, but sad, this book was an excellent read. Although it was not fast-paced I sympathized with the main character and thoroughly enjoyed it. I would recommend it to anyone.
Date published: 2005-05-26
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A Complicated Kindness It was an excellent book up to the last twenty pages. It felt like all the characters were quickly being written off which was shocking after how well detailed each one was introduced.
Date published: 2005-05-01
Rated 1 out of 5 by from bookmama Horrible waste of money. If you want a coming of age book, read The Catcher in the Rye. It makes Holden seem normal. Nomi pales by comparison.
Date published: 2005-04-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Almost Flawless! I loved this book! And think I may have found a new author whose repetoire I must read through! The main Character Nomi, is so REAL. I found myself missing her mother and sister, and living her tumultous live right along with her! I am an avid reader and have yet to read a Canadian book as good as this one! Bring on the next one Miriam Toews, I am waiting!!!!
Date published: 2005-03-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Best fiction book I've read by a Canadian author My father was born in Steinbach although I was not raised as a Mennonite, rather as an Anglican in Alberta. When I was growing up it was an embarrassment to be associated with Mennonites despite the fact they were 'conscientious abjectors' and Dutch background (1950s). The book brought back memories of what it's like to live in rural western Canada, and Miriam Toews brought it out with her wonderful dry wit and humour. I felt for Nomi and the problems she faced, and cheered for her when she burnt the truck. A true redneck thing to do. Religion in whatever small town in the rural areas of western Canada can be oppressing, not just for Mennonites. I think some of the other reviewers are taking the subject matter of the book a little too seriously. After all, it's only FICTION. An author is entitled to write whatever they want. Thank you Miriam for a great book. I'm getting copies for my brothers in Edmonton.
Date published: 2005-02-16
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Pretty Average I am surprised this book is still a bestseller. It was interesting in the sense that it put you in a time and place you normally would not learn much about, but the book dragged on and was lacking any real substance or plot. It's a good light read, but don't expect anything earth shattering.
Date published: 2005-01-30
Rated 2 out of 5 by from typical canadian fiction typical canadian fiction, a depressing main character in a story that has no plot, no driving force and certainly no resolution. There are some good points in the book, sometimes toews lyrical humour is poignant and moving..but that's so few and far between that the reader loses interest. this book was not a page turner and i found that i never connected with the main character even though my teenage years are just barely behind me. i feel bad for anyone duped into buying the book due to teh governer's general award win, its typical canadian ficiton where nothing HAPPENS.
Date published: 2004-12-31
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Dull, depressing and sad I found the book to be dull, it left me depressed at night and hurting for the young women who just couldn't get on with her life. I felt sorry for her. I found it very repetitive and without a real plot. I got the point of the story from the first chapter, and it should have ended there.
Date published: 2004-11-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from a fantastic read!!!!!!!!!!!!! I thought this book was brilliant, and it is about time someone uncovered the truth about Steinbach, and other towns like it. I lived in Steinbach for 15 years, I grew up there and could directly relate to the struggles the protagonist went through. I now live in Winnipeg for two years now and will never go back to Steinbach. I was born in Ireland and moved to Steinbach at the age of three with my family. My family are not Mennonite and I had from the day I started school nothing but fundamentalist Mennonite religion shoved down my throat. I was not accepted for who I was but instead the person they needed to convert. I think it is a dangerous religion. Steinbach tried to change me, but I am still the same, and glad to me out of that place and tasting true freedom. Thank you Mariam for writing this book!!!
Date published: 2004-11-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from a fantastic read!!!!!!!!!!!!! I thought this book was brilliant, and it is about time someone uncovered the truth about Steinbach, and other towns like it. I lived in Steinbach for 15 years, I grew up there and could directly relate to the struggles the protagonist went through. I now live in Winnipeg for two years now and will never go back to Steinbach. I was born in Ireland and moved to Steinbach at the age of three with my family. My family are not Mennonite and I had from the day I started school nothing but fundamentalist Mennonite religion shoved down my throat. I was not accepted for who I was but instead the person they needed to convert. I think it is a dangerous religion. Steinbach tried to change me, but I am still the same, and glad to me out of that place and tasting true freedom. Thank you Mariam for writing this book!!!
Date published: 2004-11-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Towes goes where no Mennonite has gone before I come from a Mennonite town and could totally relate to Nomi and the emotional toil this type of upbringing can have on a young person. The writing was amazing and the story explored many ideas that Mennonites are generally not supposed to talk about. I think it's incredible that Towes bravely goes where no Mennonite has gone before - the truth!
Date published: 2004-11-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The very definition of bittersweet The latest by Miriam Toews is sad, wistful, but also very, very funny. Anyone who spent their adolescence feeling stuck in the middle of nowhere will appreciate the longings of the novel's heroine, the yearning for a life less ordinary.
Date published: 2004-10-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Read! By far the best and most thoughtful book I've read in a long, long time (perhaps ever.) Yes the story is not fast moving, but it is the underlying emotion which is the real beauty of the book.
Date published: 2004-10-07
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Depressing As a teenager I suffered from depression. It was a complicated time for me and I was very happy to grow up and clear my head. This book brought me back to the sad place that I have successfully avoided for the past few years. The story was interesting but it left me unsatisfied, and the ending was as depressing as the rest of the novel.
Date published: 2004-09-21
Rated 1 out of 5 by from uneventful I was excited to read this book because of the great reviews it received. I was quickly disappointed when I could barely get through the first half. The lack of story line and confusing language turned me off. The only reason I kept reading was for some sort of resolution at the end, but I found none. I was left with just as many questions at the end of the novel as at the beginning.
Date published: 2004-09-08
Rated 1 out of 5 by from A dreadful read The hilarious parts of this book were few and far between. This book centred on a deepressed teenager who did nothing but complain. I plodded through page after page of complaining hoping to find some redeeming characteristic in the end, but it ended with more of the same teenage complaining. I hoped to find an escape from the complaining, by finding out what happened to her sister and mother, but we were not given that information. I also found this book was terribly insulting to the Mennonites, portraying them as a masochistic group, as opposed to the gentle caring people that they are. Unless you are looking to be depressed, I would avoid this book.
Date published: 2004-08-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fictional Masterpiece I finished reading this book over two weeks ago and I can't seem to get it off of my mind. This is definitely one of the most amazing novels I have ever read. I find that it captures you in the narrative so well that it’s hard to decipher reality from fiction. I was over half way finished when I realized that Miriam Towes was the author of Summer of my amazing luck. In my opinion this book is an epic compared to her other works. I’m seriously contemplating picking it up and reading it from beginning to end once more.
Date published: 2004-07-18

– More About This Product –

A Complicated Kindness

A Complicated Kindness

by Miriam Toews

Format: Hardcover

Dimensions: 256 pages

Published: April 20, 2004

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0676976123

ISBN - 13: 9780676976120

Read from the Book

OneI live with my father, Ray Nickel, in that low brick bungalow out on highway number twelve. Blue shutters, brown door, one shattered window. Nothing great. The furniture keeps disappearing, though. That keeps things interesting.Half of our family, the better-looking half, is missing. Ray and I get up in the morning and move through our various activities until it’s time to go to bed. Every single night around ten o’clock Ray tells me that he’s hitting the hay. Along the way to his bedroom he’ll stop in the front hallway and place notes on top of his shoes to remind him of the things he has to do the next day. We enjoy staring at the Northern Lights together. I told him, verbatim, what Mr. Quiring told us in class. About how those lights work. He thought Mr. Quiring had some interesting points. He’s always been mildly interested in Mr. Quiring’s opinions, probably because he’s also a teacher.I have assignments to complete. That’s the word, complete. 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. I’m already anticipating failure. That much I’ve learned to do. But then what the hell will it matter to me while I’m snapping tiny necks and chucking feathery corpses onto a conveyor belt in a dimly lit cinder-block slaughterhouse
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From the Publisher

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 as A 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 the Globe 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 birth is because that would reduce our suffering by a lifetime. My guidance counsellor has suggested to me that I change my attitude about this place and learn to love it. But I do, I told her. Oh, that’s rich, she said. That’s rich. . .

We’re Mennonites. After Dukhobors who show up naked in court we are the most embarrassing sub-sect of people to belong to if you’re a teenager. Five hundred years ago in Europe a man named Menno Simons set off to do his own peculiar religious thing and he and his followers were beaten up and killed or forced to conform all over Holland, Poland, and Russia until they, at least some of them, finally landed right here where I sit. Imagine the least well-adjusted kid in your school starting a breakaway clique of people whose manifesto includes a ban on the media, dancing, smoking , temperate climates, movies, drinking, rock’n’roll, having sex for fun, swimming, makeup, jewellery, playing pool, going to cities, or staying up past nine o’clock. That was Menno all over. Thanks a lot, Menno.
—from A Complicated Kindness

About the Author

Miriam Toews (pronounced tâves) was born in 1964 in the small Mennonite town of Steinbach, Manitoba. She left Steinbach at 18, living in Montreal and London and touring Europe before coming back to Manitoba, where she earned her B.A. in film studies at the University of Manitoba. Later she packed up with her children and partner and moved to Halifax to attend the University of King’s College, where she received her bachelor’s degree in journalism. Upon returning to Winnipeg with her family in 1991, she freelanced at the CBC, making radio documentaries. When her youngest daughter started nursery school, Toews decided it was time to try writing a novel.Miriam Toews’s first novel, Summer of My Amazing Luck, was published in 1996; it was nominated for the Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour and won the John Hirsch Award. Published two years later, her second novel, A Boy of Good Breeding, won the McNally Robinson Book of the Year Award. She is also the author of Swing Low: A Life, a memoir of her father who committed suicide in 1998 after a lifelong struggle with manic depression. Swing Low won both the McNally Robinson Book of the Year Award and the Alexander Kennedy Isbister Award for Non-Fiction. Toews has written for the CBC, This American Life (on National Public Radio), Saturday Night, Geist, Canadian Geographic, Open Letters and The New York Times Magazine, and has won the National Magazine Award Gold Medal for Humour. Toews’s third novel, A Complicated Kindness, has
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From Our Editors

This landmark literary novel balances unbearable sadness and beauty in the voice of a witty, beleaguered teenager whose family is destroyed by fundamentalist Christianity.

Editorial Reviews

"Miriam Toews, the award winning Canadian author, embodies Nomi's voice with such an authentic and manic charm that it's hard not to fall in love with her... A Complicated Kindness captures the struggles of a family and its individuals in a fresh, wondrous style. Despite this complexity of family tensions, much of A Complicated Kindness is pleasantly plotless. The looseness of Nomi's worldview, the sometimes blurry nonfocus of it, the unexpected sideways humor, make this book the beautiful and bitter little masterpiece it is." —The Believer“Poignant....Bold, tender and intelligent, this is a clear-eyed exploration of belief and belonging, and the irresistible urge to escape both.”—Publishers Weekly“Wise, edgy, unforgettable, the heroine of Miriam Toews’s knockout novel is Canada’s next classic.”—Globe and Mail Books section cover“A Complicated Kindness is just that: funny and strange, spellbinding and heartbreaking, this novel is a complicated kindness from a terrifically talented writer.”—Gail Anderson-Dargatz“Why the compulsion to laugh so often and so heartily when reading A Complicated Kindness? That's the book's mystery and its miracle. Has any of our novelists ever married, so brilliantly, the funny — and I mean posture-damaging, shoulder-heaving, threaten- the- grip- of- gravity- on- recently- ingested- food brand of funny — and the desperately sad —that would be the three-ply- tissue, insufficient- to- the- day, who- knew- I- had- this- much- snot- in- me brand of sad
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