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A Complicated Kindness: A Novel

by

A Complicated Kindness: A Novel Cover

 

Awards

2004 Governor General's Award Winner
2004 Giller Prize Shortlist

Staff Pick

Sharp and often howlingly funny — but insistently generous — A Complicated Kindness introduces sixteen-year-old Nomi Nickel, straining under the pressure of family, boys, and authority, common enough conflicts drawn here in extravagant, heartrending detail.
Recommended by Dave, Powells.com

This is simply the funniest, sweetest, coolest book of 2004. If you like Canadian Mennonites, you'll love A Complicated Kindness.
Recommended by Kevin Sampsell, Powells.com

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

"Half of our family, the better-looking half, is missing," Nomi tells us at the beginning of A Complicated Kindness. Left alone with her sad, peculiar father, her days are spent piecing together why her mother and sister have disappeared and contemplating her inevitable career at Happy Family Farms, a chicken slaughterhouse on the outskirts of East Village — not the East Village in New York City where Nomi would prefer to live, but a dull, oppressive town founded by Mennonites on the cold, flat plains of Manitoba, Canada.

This moving, darkly funny novel is the world according to Nomi Nickel, a bewildered and wry sixteen-year-old trapped in a town governed by fundamentalist religion. In Nomi's droll, refreshing voice, we're told the story of her eccentric, touching family as it falls apart, each member on a collision course with the only community they have ever known. A work of fierce humor and tragedy by a writer poised to take the American market by storm, this searing, tender, comic testament to family love will break your heart.

Review:

"A 16-year-old rebels against the conventions of her strict Mennonite community and tries to come to terms with the collapse of her family in this insightful, irreverent coming-of-age novel. In bleak rural Manitoba, Nomi longs for her older sister, Tash ('she was so earmarked for damnation it wasn't even funny'), and mother, Trudie, each of whom has recently fled fundamentalist Christianity and their town. Her gentle, uncommunicative father, Ray, isn't much of a sounding board as Nomi plunges into bittersweet memory and grapples with teenage life in a 'kind of a cult with pretend connections to some normal earthly conventions.' Once a 'curious, hopeful child' Nomi now relies on biting humor as her life spins out of control — she stops attending school, shaves her head and wanders around in a marijuana-induced haze — while Ray sells off most of their furniture, escapes on all-night drives and increasingly withdraws into himself. Still, she and Ray are linked in a tender, if fragile, partnership as each slips into despair. Though the narration occasionally unravels into distracting stream of consciousness, the unsentimental prose and the poignant character interactions sustain reader interest. Bold, tender and intelligent, this is a clear-eyed exploration of belief and belonging, and the irresistible urge to escape both. Agent, Knopf Canada. Author tour. (Oct.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Review:

"[Toews] has an artful way of weaving her anecdotes together....There is beauty and compassion in her portrayal of Nomi's struggle, and there is also grudging sympathy for the people Nomi struggles to define herself against." New York Times

Review:

"[Toews's] episodic, highly introspective first novel...maintains a careful balance between hilarity and heartbreak that most readers will find unforgettable." Booklist (Starred Review)

Review:

"A Complicated Kindness just may be a future classic in its own right....Simply put, this is a wonderful book because it reminds us of the beauty and meaning in one small moment of one small life." Philadelphia Inquirer

Review:

"Offering incisive reflections on life, death and Lou Reed, the black-sheep Nomi is clearly wise beyond her years, and her voice is unique. The road to anywhere else may be rough for her, but her angst-ridden journey is unforgettable." People Magazine

Review:

"[Nomi's] wry observations reflect normal adolescent angst leavened with a distinctly parochial irreverence. Teens with real issues as well as those who would benefit by realizing that they don't have it so bad will find sadness and hope in Nomi's thoughtful musings and root for her survival." School Library Journal

Review:

"[A]musing if somewhat rambling....Toews captures the spurts and lurches of adolescent growth in a tale as crude and fresh as its subject matter." Kirkus Reviews

Review:

"A Complicated kindness...makes the novel more generous than it is bitter in spirit, and more revealing." Seattle Times

Review:

"Nomi Nickel is a sassy 16-year-old whose mother and sister have bolted from their Mennonite community, leaving Nomi with her off-kilter father in a repressive town where rebellion is severely punished." O, The Oprah Magazine

Review:

"Miriam Toews has written a novel shot through with aching sadness, the spectre of loss, and unexpected humor....It might seem an odd metaphor to use about someone who has authored such a vivid, anguished indictment of religious fundamentalism, but Miriam Toews writes like an angel." David Rakoff, author of Fraud

Review:

"Wise, edgy, unforgettable, the heroine of Miriam Toews' knockout novel is Canada's next classic." The Globe and Mail

Review:

"Miriam Toews's brilliant third novel, A Complicated Kindness...is told in Nomi's cocky, brooding voice." New York Times Book Review

Review:

"The narrative voice is so strong, it could carry the least eventful, least weird adolescence in the world and still be as transfixing.... Toews' novel is a wonderfully acute, moving, warm, sceptical, frustrated portrait of fundamentalist religion....The book is fascinating, and resonant, and inexorable..." The Guardian (UK)

Review:

"A Complicated Kindness struck me like a blow to the solar plexus. Toews, somewhat like Mordecai Richler, makes you feel the pain of her protagonist while elucidating the predicament of her people, always mixing a large dose of empathy with her iconoclastic sense of the ridiculous." Pat Donnelly, The Gazette (Montreal)

Review:

"In a novel full of original characters...Toews has created a feisty but appealing young heroine....As an indictment against religious fundamentalism, A Complicated Kindness is timely. As a commentary on character it is fresh and inventive, and as storytelling it is first rate." The London Free Press

Review:

"A Complicated Kindness is affecting, impeccably written, and has real authority, but most of all it is immediate. You — as they say — are there...like waking up in a crazy Bible camp, or witnessing an adolescent tour guide tear off her uniform and make a break for the highway. Quill & Quire

Review:

"At times [Nomi is] all bravado and sardonic wit regarding her faith, but beneath that is a 16-year-old who's spent sleepless nights praying for her family's salvation. By way of Jesus Christ or John Lennon, she's never quite sure." Ruminator Review

Review:

"The wry 16-year-old, trapped in a tiny Mennonite community in southern Manitoba, earns readers' sympathy and adoration from her first angst-drenched rage." Bloomsbury Review

Review:

"Toews recreates the stultifying world of an exasperated Mennonite teenager in a small town where nothing happens with mesmerizing authenticity." Toronto Star

Review:

"A Complicated Kindness is a delight from beginning to end. The humour might be of the blackest sort ('People here just can't wait to die, it seems. It's the main event.'), but the cumulative effect is liberating and defiantly joyful." Daily Mail

About the Author

Miriam Toews is the award-winning author of several novels. She lives in Winnipeg.

What Our Readers Are Saying

Add a comment for a chance to win!
Average customer rating based on 2 comments:

brookshelley, October 27, 2014 (view all comments by brookshelley)
Amazing and sad novel about growing up isolated and different from those around you. Miriam captures the complicated emotions surrounding religious communities and teenage rebellion in this novel. Highly recommended.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
Mari0003, November 20, 2006 (view all comments by Mari0003)
A novel reflecting on the life of a rebellious teenage Mennonite girl who wants only to be "free". Every act of complicated kindness presented through this novel impacts both the giver and receiver. These acts tend to have terrible outcomes despite the good intentions. Reading between the lines is the only way these acts can be seen; in this piece of fiction and in our own lives. Even when all seems lost and forgotten there is still a type of heartfelt complicated kindness seen through the eyes of those who know us.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(6 of 15 readers found this comment helpful)
View all 2 comments

Product Details

ISBN:
9781582433226
Author:
Toews, Miriam
Publisher:
Counterpoint LLC
Subject:
General
Subject:
Fathers and daughters
Subject:
Teenage girls
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Domestic fiction
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade Paper
Publication Date:
September 2005
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
264
Dimensions:
8 x 5.33 in 10 oz

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Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
Health and Self-Help » Health and Medicine » General
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Reference » Science Reference » Technology

A Complicated Kindness: A Novel New Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$15.95 Backorder
Product details 264 pages Counterpoint Press - English 9781582433226 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

Sharp and often howlingly funny — but insistently generous — A Complicated Kindness introduces sixteen-year-old Nomi Nickel, straining under the pressure of family, boys, and authority, common enough conflicts drawn here in extravagant, heartrending detail.

"Staff Pick" by ,

This is simply the funniest, sweetest, coolest book of 2004. If you like Canadian Mennonites, you'll love A Complicated Kindness.

"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "A 16-year-old rebels against the conventions of her strict Mennonite community and tries to come to terms with the collapse of her family in this insightful, irreverent coming-of-age novel. In bleak rural Manitoba, Nomi longs for her older sister, Tash ('she was so earmarked for damnation it wasn't even funny'), and mother, Trudie, each of whom has recently fled fundamentalist Christianity and their town. Her gentle, uncommunicative father, Ray, isn't much of a sounding board as Nomi plunges into bittersweet memory and grapples with teenage life in a 'kind of a cult with pretend connections to some normal earthly conventions.' Once a 'curious, hopeful child' Nomi now relies on biting humor as her life spins out of control — she stops attending school, shaves her head and wanders around in a marijuana-induced haze — while Ray sells off most of their furniture, escapes on all-night drives and increasingly withdraws into himself. Still, she and Ray are linked in a tender, if fragile, partnership as each slips into despair. Though the narration occasionally unravels into distracting stream of consciousness, the unsentimental prose and the poignant character interactions sustain reader interest. Bold, tender and intelligent, this is a clear-eyed exploration of belief and belonging, and the irresistible urge to escape both. Agent, Knopf Canada. Author tour. (Oct.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review" by , "[Toews] has an artful way of weaving her anecdotes together....There is beauty and compassion in her portrayal of Nomi's struggle, and there is also grudging sympathy for the people Nomi struggles to define herself against."
"Review" by , "[Toews's] episodic, highly introspective first novel...maintains a careful balance between hilarity and heartbreak that most readers will find unforgettable."
"Review" by , "A Complicated Kindness just may be a future classic in its own right....Simply put, this is a wonderful book because it reminds us of the beauty and meaning in one small moment of one small life."
"Review" by , "Offering incisive reflections on life, death and Lou Reed, the black-sheep Nomi is clearly wise beyond her years, and her voice is unique. The road to anywhere else may be rough for her, but her angst-ridden journey is unforgettable."
"Review" by , "[Nomi's] wry observations reflect normal adolescent angst leavened with a distinctly parochial irreverence. Teens with real issues as well as those who would benefit by realizing that they don't have it so bad will find sadness and hope in Nomi's thoughtful musings and root for her survival."
"Review" by , "[A]musing if somewhat rambling....Toews captures the spurts and lurches of adolescent growth in a tale as crude and fresh as its subject matter."
"Review" by , "A Complicated kindness...makes the novel more generous than it is bitter in spirit, and more revealing."
"Review" by , "Nomi Nickel is a sassy 16-year-old whose mother and sister have bolted from their Mennonite community, leaving Nomi with her off-kilter father in a repressive town where rebellion is severely punished."
"Review" by , "Miriam Toews has written a novel shot through with aching sadness, the spectre of loss, and unexpected humor....It might seem an odd metaphor to use about someone who has authored such a vivid, anguished indictment of religious fundamentalism, but Miriam Toews writes like an angel."
"Review" by , "Wise, edgy, unforgettable, the heroine of Miriam Toews' knockout novel is Canada's next classic."
"Review" by , "Miriam Toews's brilliant third novel, A Complicated Kindness...is told in Nomi's cocky, brooding voice."
"Review" by , "The narrative voice is so strong, it could carry the least eventful, least weird adolescence in the world and still be as transfixing.... Toews' novel is a wonderfully acute, moving, warm, sceptical, frustrated portrait of fundamentalist religion....The book is fascinating, and resonant, and inexorable..."
"Review" by , "A Complicated Kindness struck me like a blow to the solar plexus. Toews, somewhat like Mordecai Richler, makes you feel the pain of her protagonist while elucidating the predicament of her people, always mixing a large dose of empathy with her iconoclastic sense of the ridiculous."
"Review" by , "In a novel full of original characters...Toews has created a feisty but appealing young heroine....As an indictment against religious fundamentalism, A Complicated Kindness is timely. As a commentary on character it is fresh and inventive, and as storytelling it is first rate."
"Review" by , "A Complicated Kindness is affecting, impeccably written, and has real authority, but most of all it is immediate. You — as they say — are there...like waking up in a crazy Bible camp, or witnessing an adolescent tour guide tear off her uniform and make a break for the highway.
"Review" by , "At times [Nomi is] all bravado and sardonic wit regarding her faith, but beneath that is a 16-year-old who's spent sleepless nights praying for her family's salvation. By way of Jesus Christ or John Lennon, she's never quite sure."
"Review" by , "The wry 16-year-old, trapped in a tiny Mennonite community in southern Manitoba, earns readers' sympathy and adoration from her first angst-drenched rage."
"Review" by , "Toews recreates the stultifying world of an exasperated Mennonite teenager in a small town where nothing happens with mesmerizing authenticity."
"Review" by , "A Complicated Kindness is a delight from beginning to end. The humour might be of the blackest sort ('People here just can't wait to die, it seems. It's the main event.'), but the cumulative effect is liberating and defiantly joyful."
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