Thursday, July 26
Book Review: A Complicated Kindness
Author: Miriam Toews
Summary: "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.
My Rating: 5.5/10
What I liked/disliked about the book: I couldn't get into this book and it quickly lost my interest. I didn't find the story to be interesting and I couldn't bring myself to like the narrator enough to truly understand her or feel for her. This is a book where you need to feel a connection with the narrator/protagonist to appreciate the story and that didn't happen for me. I didn't find her to be a likeable character. It was a good example of coming of age and a slow progression of finding one's self and their place within their community, but I couldn't get into the book. I felt the book stood still for most of the time, and it took me a long time to see the characters progression.
I think the setting also affected how I felt about the book. I have never been very interested in the lives of the Mennonites, and since this book focuses so heavily on that, it also deterred me from liking it. Because the way they live their lives according to the narrator, I felt the book to be somewhat repetitive having the day to day details and what the future may hold take away from other aspects of the book.
Near the end I began to see a different side of things and I did like the ending. Unfortunately by that point the turnaround was a little too late. In the end not the book for me.
Would I recommend it to read: I'm not sure. It seems to be a popular and well liked book by other reviewers. I just found it didn't reach me. Up in the air for this one.
What to read next: I'd try other Governor General Award Winners or Canada Reads winners, as this book has won both.
Challenges: 12 in 12, 100+ Challenge, Canadian Book Challenge VI, New Author Challenge