All My Puny Sorrows

All My Puny Sorrows

Hardcover | April 15, 2014

byMiriam Toews

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SHORTLISTED 2014 – Scotiabank Giller Prize

Miriam Toews is beloved for her irresistible voice, for mingling laughter and heartwrenching poignancy like no other writer. In her most passionate novel yet, she brings us the riveting story of two sisters, and a love that illuminates life.

You won’t forget Elf and Yoli, two smart and loving sisters. Elfrieda, a world-renowned pianist, glamorous, wealthy, happily married: she wants to die. Yolandi, divorced, broke, sleeping with the wrong men as she tries to find true love: she desperately wants to keep her older sister alive. Yoli is a beguiling mess, wickedly funny even as she stumbles through life struggling to keep her teenage kids and mother happy, her exes from hating her, her sister from killing herself and her own heart from breaking.
But Elf’s latest suicide attempt is a shock: she is three weeks away from the opening of her highly anticipated international tour. Her long-time agent has been calling and neither Yoli nor Elf’s loving husband knows what to tell him. Can she be nursed back to “health” in time? Does it matter? As the situation becomes ever more complicated, Yoli faces the most terrifying decision of her life.
All My Puny Sorrows, at once tender and unquiet, offers a profound reflection on the limits of love, and the sometimes unimaginable challenges we experience when childhood becomes a new country of adult commitments and responsibilities. In her beautifully rendered new novel, Miriam Toews gives us a startling demonstration of how to carry on with hope and love and the business of living even when grief loads the heart.

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All My Puny Sorrows

Hardcover | April 15, 2014
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$27.15 online $29.95 (save 9%)

From the Publisher

SHORTLISTED 2014 – Scotiabank Giller PrizeMiriam Toews is beloved for her irresistible voice, for mingling laughter and heartwrenching poignancy like no other writer. In her most passionate novel yet, she brings us the riveting story of two sisters, and a love that illuminates life. You won’t forget Elf and Yoli, two smart and loving s...

Miriam Toews is the author of five previous bestselling novels: Summer of My Amazing Luck, A Boy of Good Breeding, A Complicated Kindness (Canada Reads 2006, Canada Reads Canadian Bestseller of the Decade 2010), The Flying Troutmans, and Irma Voth, and one work of non-fiction, Swing Low: A Life.  She is a winner of the Governor General...

other books by Miriam Toews

A Complicated Kindness
A Complicated Kindness

Paperback|May 1 2007

$19.72 online$21.00list price(save 6%)
Irma Voth
Irma Voth

Hardcover|Apr 5 2011

$10.00 online$29.95list price(save 66%)
Summer Of My Amazing Luck
Summer Of My Amazing Luck

Paperback|Jul 25 2006


see all books by Miriam Toews
Format:HardcoverDimensions:336 pages, 8.36 × 5.5 × 1.14 inPublished:April 15, 2014Publisher:Knopf CanadaLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0345808002

ISBN - 13:9780345808004

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Customer Reviews of All My Puny Sorrows


Rated 4 out of 5 by from Not my favourite, but still beautiful. I thoroughly enjoy Miriam Toews. This book took me a while to finish, I found the first few chapters slow, and didn't keep my attention. When I did finally finish the book though, I was left feeling so conflicted. It's so tragic, and sad, and truly brings light to mental illness and the way it affects the person suffering, as well as their family.
Date published: 2017-01-10
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Ok read I found it was a little hard to get into. It wasn't a bad book but I didn't like it as much as the reviewers
Date published: 2017-01-01
Rated 3 out of 5 by from All My Puny Sorrows Hard to get into, but I enjoyed it. Not quite what the reviews led me to believe it would be like.
Date published: 2016-12-28
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Toews Does it Again All My Puny Sorrows was an excellent read, and in my opinion, comes second only to A Complicated Kindness. Another heartbreaking story that makes you laugh and cry at the same time, but still offers hope.
Date published: 2016-11-11
Rated 3 out of 5 by from I didn't love it as much as the reviewers...but... It was still a good read. I'm glad I read it. Toews is a great writer and we are lucky to have her as a Canadian author. Definitely an enjoyable read. In a world of more books than we all have time for, this is worth taking the time for.
Date published: 2016-11-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A must read! A hilarious and moving novel that opens the mind to new ways of understanding hurt, love, and life.
Date published: 2016-04-05
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Highly enjoyable, which is amazing given the topic Very captivating, a roller coaster of emotions, many Lol moments! I couldn't put it down. Right up there with A Complicated Kindness if not better.
Date published: 2015-10-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Superb This story comes from the heart of family love and loss. I am in awe of the talent of Ms Toews. She is stellar.
Date published: 2015-10-16
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Redundant This is really hard for me, as Miriam Toews is one of my favourites and coincidentally comes from my home-town area, so there is great nostalgia and awareness when reading her books. However, I feel her story line is becoming quite redundant. It appears to me, and quite reasonably so, that her fathers death has left her with a great deal of emotion and feelings to process. This comes out in the same story line over and over again. Two sisters. Children. An adventure. A tragedy. It's become somewhat of a template in which you just plug in a new character name, a new locale etc. but it follows along much the same as her other books. That being said, I do love her writing style and rather dead-pan sense of humour.
Date published: 2015-09-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from fantastic Heartbreaking, poignant, funny, witty, what an amazing read. Toews is a modern master. A must read.
Date published: 2015-08-30
Rated 4 out of 5 by from All My Puny Sorrows An interesting first hand look at mental health issues and suicide in Canada. A somewhat unfair, stereotypical and narrow perspective of Mennonites. Many Mennonite churches are deeply involved in raising awareness of social, environmental and mental health issues. I did appreciate the humour and the Plattdeutsch. A good read which addresses the difficulty of dealing with mental health issues effectively.
Date published: 2015-08-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wasn't sure..... I wasn't so sure at first. And, having list a loved one to suicide this felt at times a bit depressing. However, the quirky humour had me laughing in lots of places and I grew to love the characters. So glad I hung in there and finished it.
Date published: 2015-08-17
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Enjoyed This was quite enjoyable. Not sure what awaited as I'd read mixed reviews, but this humour was right up my alley. It's sarcastic, dark, self-deprecating: it's hilarious despite the unbearable sadness that runs through the story. I have never had to imagine the strength and will it would take, on both sides, if someone I loved wanted to end their own life but this certainly sheds light on the matter of suicide. If you or your family aren't even a little bit messed up, you're not going to enjoy this. If you can't feed the dark part of your mind even a little bit now and then, you're not going to enjoy this. The writing is beautiful, the dialogue is honest, and I think in some way, everyone will be able to relate.
Date published: 2015-08-06
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Liked it! I really enjoyed this book - I felt it got a little bogged down in the middle, but I felt it sums up what living is all about!
Date published: 2015-07-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Gripping story An emotional ride involving family, relationships, mental illness and survival. The characters are so real and endearing. Skillfully written, I did not want the story to end. A must read.
Date published: 2015-06-06
Rated 3 out of 5 by from All My Puny Sorrows Overall a good book showing how no matter what we have in life... Mental health issues can still rear its ugly head. And no matter how much we want to save someone we can't if they don't want to save themselves.
Date published: 2015-05-27
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Heart breaking and hilarious It took me a while to get into this book, maybe it was just me. About 1/3 of the way through I almost put it down, but persevered. When Elf and Yoli had their 'drag 'em out' slanging (sort of) match I immediately saw the joy in this book. It is always hard to believe how someone so talented had always wanted to die, but not being blessed with any great talent, my mind does not work the same as Elf's or anyone else of such enormous talent. Yoli's love for her sister, wanting her to live but at the same time thinking about helping her die, was heart wrenching. The family history is like that of so many ordinary families that you can definitely identify with this. And the humor was so appreciated.
Date published: 2015-05-22
Rated 4 out of 5 by from approach with caution Wonderfully written....yet the most unsettling book I've read in years. I would recommend it, but with some reservations for people with difficult family backgrounds.
Date published: 2015-04-27
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Very touching story - but a little tedious I found the story interesting and thought provoking but it went on and on - wandering and a bit hard to really get into.
Date published: 2015-04-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I reread the ending just to have a good cry You grow to feel very close to the characters. Even though they are dealing with such difficult things, their world and their company is warming and comforting. I'll miss them forever and yet they're always there to go back to.
Date published: 2015-04-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Why did I wait? As a lifelong extreme reader (a book+ each a week since childhood) I rank this in my Top 20-30 of all favourites. Why did I wait to read it? And now, all of Miriam Toews awaits.
Date published: 2015-04-06
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Not a fan Didn't enjoy after hearing great reviews
Date published: 2015-03-18
Rated 4 out of 5 by from unique approach to dark topic works admirably Toews' unique writing style is what makes this difficult read not only bearable but dare I say, entertaining. But make no mistake, she does not make light of the topic. The writing - filled with puckish humour - enables the reader to gain some modicum of understanding of the pain and struggle not only of the protagonist - and all those who suffer her affliction - but her family, friends, and loved-ones. It is heart-wrenching, intensely realistic and leaves the reader deeply touched and slightly uplifted. Despite the seeming utter darkness...there is a tiny spot of light.
Date published: 2015-02-25
Rated 4 out of 5 by from All my Puny Sorrows Not as enjoyable as previous books but neither was the subject. Really love her subtle humor and sense of place. Good way to tackle a sensitive subject.
Date published: 2015-02-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from triste e bella A beautiful story of love and loss and constancy. Toews has written her best novel to date with "All My Puny Sorrows". I found the writing very fluid, the story moving easily and quickly forward. It is a heartbreaking tale, yet touched with moments of great humour, and always, always, a story of the depth of love shared within family. I think Miriam Toews has great courage to write this book and I hope it has helped her healing.
Date published: 2015-01-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Simply Amazing My first Toews book and now I'm on my third. This one will be with me my whole life for several rereadings. Yoli is someone I would like to hang out with, she has a beautiful attitude towards life, doesn't let the hardest things break her down and still she experiences the tragedy fully. I cried a few times, I could relate to the characters so much.
Date published: 2014-12-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from All my puny sorrows Loved the humour, honesty, & snippets of Mennonite history - colorful writing which makes me want to read more of her books
Date published: 2014-12-28
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Not as Great As the Reviews Made it Sound Based on the hype and the reviews, I purchased this book and looked forward to reading it. Unfortunately I didn't find it gripping or as fantastic as the reviews made it sound. It is a very heart wrenching novel that deals with mental illness and the various difficulties that life has to offer, which are great topics. But I just didn't find the book was as good as I had expected, and I found myself wanting to keep reading only to get to the end so that I could start another book, rather than longing to pick up the book again to see what happens next. It's not a terrible read and I did really enjoy Yoli's character with all of her sarcasm and self-deprivation. But it just wasn't the great read I was expecting that would have kept me thinking about the book for a while after finishing. For that reason, it was a little disappointing.
Date published: 2014-12-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Moving, beautiful, funny, touching I bought this book because I have enjoyed all of the other books I have read by Miriam Toews and knew this would be a wonderful book. I was not, however, prepared by just how wonderful this book was. Ms. Toews has a style that is all her own and yet so inclusive you feel like you are living in a sort of parallel universe. Her narrative is such that, as I was reading some of the passages I could actually hear Yoli's voice and could have sworn it was my own. As they say in trite movie reviews, "I laughed, I cried, I cheered!" but I absolutely did all of those things. Thank you Miriam Toews for writing such a beautiful book which I realize could not have been easy to write, given that it is based on some of your personal history. In sharing what happened with you and your family, you have probably helped many, not just with the subject of people "killing by their own hand" but also that surrounding family dynamics of not just a family faced with suicide but a family that is faced with real life. I love your writing Miriam Toews and I wish I could be you when I grow up (I'm 53 now! haha!!) Thanks again, Happy Holidays and please keep writing. you do it so very well. Anne Creelman, Haliburton, ON
Date published: 2014-12-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Beautiful and Heartbreaking Toews navigates the delicate subjects of suicide and the right to die with her signature grace and humour, a feat even more laudable when you learn that this novel is highly autobiographical. While the novel is heartbreaking, Yoli's love for her family stuck with me, even after I finished the book, so what lingers is the memory of love rather than grief. A beautiful novel.
Date published: 2014-11-12
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Heart and Wit Yoli's voice is so familiar, like the voice in my own head. Her arch commentary on what she sees is often hilarious but always reflects the kindness of this character who provides an intimate view of the love and responsibility that family involves. Her love for the women in her life - her sister, her mother, aunts, her daughter, and how much she appreciates their take on life, make clear how grounded and grateful for life she is. For that reason, she struggles to understand how her sister, Elf, could want to end her perfect life. However, she never gives up demanding that those around her sister treat her depression as a disease and not an artistic tantrum or affectation. Toews writes from her heart, with language so evocative, so perfect. She's like the voice in my head, only much better.
Date published: 2014-11-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from All My Puny Sorrows A great insight into what a person contemplating suicide feels. The rational and the suffering came alive. Being one to try and prevent versus helping to accomplish the death was poignant from the sister's viewpoint. A great read.
Date published: 2014-11-08
Rated 4 out of 5 by from "To her I pour'd forth all my puny sorrows" There is an anecdote in "All My Puny Sorrows" where Yolandi recalls the tears that come streaming down her cheeks as she watches a video of a bird flying away after being nursed back to health by Yo's neighbour. "As I watched this short video something inside of me smashed, it was so startling and irreversible that starling's departure, and I was crying but trying not to, but it felt like I'd been tear-gassed." That was exactly the feeling Miriam Toews' sixth novel illicits. "All My Puny Sorrows" is a tremendous novel. It's challenging, oh so very challenging, to read because of its content on mental health, assisted death, religious upbringings, grief and loss. But Toews finds the light humour in some of these situations, and readers will appreciate the small reliefs sprinkled throughout the narrative. It's sometimes mundane, the things they do and say, but it's through this familiarity that we ease through the pain and find the comfort we need to make sense of hard times and tough choices. It encapsulates the kinship of sisterhood, of a mother and daughter, and of the ties that bind a family in good and bad times. Yolandi and Elfrieda are two memorable characters that will stay with me forever - "she wanted to die and I wanted her to live and we were enemies who loved each other." Fresh off the press, Toews' has won her second Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize for "All My Puny Sorrows." It's an important win in my opinion, with the very personal touch the novel has for her and with the relevancy of the issues brought up in it to the current debate on assisted death in this nation. Wouldn't Miriam Toews' "All My Puny Sorrows," Winner of the 2014 Scotiabank Giller Prize, have a nice ring to it as well?
Date published: 2014-11-05
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Latest read A sad subject but I really enjoyed the characters and the humour.
Date published: 2014-11-05
Rated 4 out of 5 by from 24 hours after finishing this book I am still shaken Suicide and depression, those oft-choked nuggets of contemporary literature, are a tricky terrain but one Toevs maneuvers deftly. The ache and anger of the people left to witness and endure are not wrought darkly but honestly and precisely, tempered with the shocks of humor and relief we experience when confronted by life's inevitable finality, self-inflicted or not.
Date published: 2014-10-30
Rated 4 out of 5 by from All My Puny Sorrows Powerful novel by one of my favourite Canadian authors.
Date published: 2014-09-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing I am a Social Worker and work with people who suffer from depression. This novel was so accurate in terms of how people struggle. Amazing ............. I will recommend this to everyone!
Date published: 2014-08-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A life changer. I'm ready to start all over again from page one. This is why I read novels: to be reminded of my love for others, to be healed of my wounds, to laugh at my sorrows, to cry bittersweet tears. AMPS did all this for me. There's no-one I don't want to share it with. It's so clever and funny and well written. Toews's characters are real: glorious but not glorified, strong for accepting their weaknesses. At times, I worried Toews's wit would intrude on the emotion of a passage, or that she'd force levity, but she got the balance just right. It's a very sad story pitched beautifully and if you've lost someone close, you will be able to relate on a deeper level. The best.
Date published: 2014-07-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from All My Puny Sorrows Elf wants to die. A lifelong sufferer of depression, she just wants to end her life. Yoli, her sister, wants Elf to live. Yoli loves Elf and she can?t understand how someone who has it all - beauty, charm, a wicked sense of humour, a brilliant career as a famous pianist, a loving husband - could want out of this life. Yoli has none of these things, and she is determined to keep her sister alive. How does one write about such excruciatingly sad subjects and make the reader laugh? Miriam Toews knows how. She writes with such wit and humour that you cannot help but laugh out loud despite the subject matter. Her voice is so genuine that you feel you have known her all your life. And, she?s wise. Toews' wisdom permeates the writing in such a way that it surfaces even in the most unexpected moments, in the mundane of our daily lives, and of course, in the profound questions about family, duty, religion, life, and love. Miriam Toews? is quickly becoming one of my favourite Canadian authors, or rather, one of my favourite authors - period. Her writing, her voice is so unassuming as to make me think I could write; I can see my reflection in her words. But I?m not really fooled. Such poignant writing only appears easy because it?s so relatable. Toews is a masterful storyteller.
Date published: 2014-07-13
Rated 4 out of 5 by from All my puny sorrows Actually, I loved to bits all the characters in this novel. Toews really is magical in her ability to create wonderful characters who I wished alternatively to rescue and to scorn. A lovely read.
Date published: 2014-07-08
Rated 4 out of 5 by from All My Puny Sorrows A touching and realistic story of the love between sisters.
Date published: 2014-06-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A favourite This book is so sad and at the same time there are numerous humourous moments. I loved the way the author made me, as a reader, feel every emotion on the pages. I had to stop reading once in a while to wait for the tears to stop, and then, on another page I would be laughing out loud. This book deals with a painful subject with a grace and tact that few authors could achieve. I loved it!
Date published: 2014-06-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A must read. So beautifully written - so full of humanity, humour and love. Last night I finished reading Miriam Toews new book "All My Puny Sorrows". I so wanted this story to not end as I fell in love with the characters, their internal complexities, humanity and their lives. So beautifully written, exploring love relationships with family and friends in the most compelling way - journeys filled with great joy and unimaginable loss. Mental health, suicide, spirituality/religion, the sometimes elusive wells of self expression and creativity and how families and communities deal with these building blocks of what make us human - figure strongly in this book. Miriam is a brilliant story teller and her sense of humour and understanding of love holds it all together.
Date published: 2014-05-13

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Editorial Reviews

WINNER 2014 – Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction PrizeSHORLISTED 2014 Giller PrizeFINALIST 2015 – The Folio PrizeLONGLISTED 2015 – International DUBLIN Literary Award "Brilliant.... Delicate braids of sadness and humour. Her most accomplished novel yet." —The Globe and Mail "Poignant, heartbreaking, yet suffused with wit.... A stellar achievement.... A superb offering from a writer of rare originality and undisputed talent." —The London Free Press "Powerful and ultimately uplifting." —Ottawa Citizen "Her fans will not be disappointed." —Waterloo Region Record