Sisters: this relationship is so very complicated — so fraught with missteps. Elf and Yoli are opposites, and while their bond is strong, it's not quite strong enough to keep Elf from continuously contemplating suicide. Yoli has tried everything to maintain the thin grasp she has on her sister. Somewhere along the way, Yoli realizes there is much she would do for Elf, even some things she never thought she could. This is a story of family dynamics, family dysfunction, and family love. Toews, an exceptional writer, bases the story on her own experiences with her sister, and she manages to truly capture this complicated relationship. Recommended By Dianah H., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
Elf and Yoli are sisters. While on the surface Elfrieda's is an enviable life (she's a world-renowned pianist, glamorous, wealthy, and happily married) and Yolandi's a mess (she's divorced and broke, with two teenagers growing up too quickly), they are fiercely closeraised in a Mennonite household and sharing the hardship of Elf's desire to end her own life. After Elf's latest attempt, Yoli must quickly determine how to keep her family from falling apart, how to keep her own heart from breaking, and what it means to love someone who wants to die.
All My Puny Sorrows is the latest novel from Miriam Toews, one of Canada's most beloved authors not only because her work is rich with deep human feeling and compassion, but because her observations are knife-sharp and her books wickedly funny. And this is Toews at her finest: a story that is as much comedy as it is tragedy, a goodbye grin from the friend who taught you how to live.
"Sisters should always want what is best for each other, but what if what one sister really wants is to end her life? This is the dilemma Yoli faces when her ethereal sister, Elf, attempts suicide. The beautiful Elf is a world-renowned pianist who’s in a loving relationship and about to start an international tour, but having it all doesn’t matter to her when she is drowning in despair. Yoli, as she rightfully points out, is the one struggling; she’s twice divorced, with children by two different fathers, and after having achieved some success as a YA series author (though she has nothing like Elf’s gifts), her career has stalled. But though she and Elf are close—the bond they forged while growing up in a conservative Mennonite town in Canada is central to the narrative—depression is hard to understand from the outside. VERDICT Despite the topic, this is not a dark novel. In fact, its gloom comes in the form of dark humor, and Toews (Irma Voth) does a wonderful job with her characters, none of whom are perfect, which makes them all the more real. It requires a talented author to take a serious subject and write such an engaging, enjoyable work." Library Journal (starred)
"In the crucible of [Miriam Toews'] genius, tears and laughter are ground into some magical elixir that seems like the essence of life." Ron Charles, The Washington Post
“Irresistible… its intelligence, its honesty and, above all, its compassion provide a kind of existential balm—a comfort not unlike the sort you might find by opening a bottle of wine and having a long conversation with (yes, really) a true friend.” Curtis Sittenfeld, The New York Times Book Review
About the Author
Miriam Toews is the author of five previous novels: Summer of My Amazing Luck, A Boy of Good Breeding, A Complicated Kindness, The Flying Troutmans, and Irma Voth, and one work of nonfiction, Swing Low: A Life. She lives in Toronto.