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Customer Review

39 of 41 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars teenage kicks in God's country, 10 Aug. 2005
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This review is from: A Complicated Kindness (Paperback)
Hey, this is great! I've stumbled on that elusive Graal of the bookshop...the great summer read! I almost gave up, especially after reading all those freaky recommendations in the Guardian and the Times: "Oh, this 700 page exploration of Mittel-European literary theory is just the thing for the holiday" or "I can't wait to start on these post-expressionist abstract poems". (Funny, I never do see those books turning up under the parasols).
Anyhow, if that's a bit heavy going for you, but you still don't see the point of reading some dull chick-lit in wonky typeface, then... ta-da!... "A Complicated Kindness" is just waiting to go travelling with you. It's a coming-of-age story set in a Canadian Mennonite community, a reclusive Christian sect similar to the Amish in its rejection of the modern world. Being a teenager is all about wanting to die from embarrassment on a regular basis, and being a teenager expected to live like a 18th century farmer is even worse. Miriam Toews was a Menno kid herself, so she knows her stuff. I really believed in the voice of her narrator, the dead-pan Nomi, who is trying her hardest to keep a sense of normality in a house that is falling apart.
The oppressive lifestyle of the Mennonites have proved too much for Nomi's mother and her rebellious older sister, both of whom have left the village without trace. Nomi's father, however, is unable to give up the religion that has formed him, while Nomi herself is just beginning to question the way of life she grew up with. In many ways, she seems like a teenager anywhere - the music, the boys, the tiny gestures of rebellion or poetry we all do in search of our identity... because this is not a dire book at all, though its theme of loss is what reviewers call "poignant". (I've always wanted to use that word, and now I have.) Somehow, in spite of the asceticism of the Mennonite lifestyle, Toews manages to capture that subtle thing called lust for life.
I'll have some of that, please!
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Location: Tokyo

Top Reviewer Ranking: 5,818,813