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A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews - Review by Margaret, Teen Blogger

A Complicated Kindness Book CoverA Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews is one of the most eccentric, dark, innovative and honest books I have ever read. Featuring a cryptic character full of teenage angst, an ongoing discontent, and a desire to see the world, this book was a triumph. With an unconventional writing style, it is also written incredibly well.

This novel is seen through the eyes of a sardonic and cynical teenage girl named Nomi Nickel. Nomi lives in a very old fashioned and religious town in Western Canada with her reckless sister, reserved father, and thoroughly confused and troubled mother.

Immediately following the beginning of the book, we are informed that Nomi's sister and mother leave the rest of the family behind in this quaint town. It is quite obvious that tradition and religion separated their family. With Ray, Nomi's father, wishing to be a perfect citizen and obey convention by going to church and following the rules, it severely differentiated him from his female family members. Nomi's sister, Tash, and her mother, Trudie, were excommunicated by the church and they both felt overwhelmed by the townspeople’s pressure to obey. So, they took off into the world, separately, and both became very carefree. The saddest part of Nomi’s character development was her realization that she could never bring her family back together.

Nomi’s character was extremely lazy, carefree, and eccentric. She was negative and extremely puzzled by her life and everything about it. Her mind was taken over by angst and confusion, and the way she spun through life without taking into account how she should live, or who she should be, was fascinating. Her boyfriend and sick best friend contributed to her cynicism. Nomi's character was also ringing with youth. Obsessed with New York City, Lou Reed, and Marianne Faithfull, Nomi’s desire to see the world defined her character. She realized she could never be happy in her town.

There was an extreme use of irony throughout the book. The rules in the town were very strict and the citizens were to avoid illegal or rebellious activities. The irony was that while everyone pretended to be good citizens of this town, in reality, they enjoyed frequent rebellion and breaking the rules. The teenagers were the most carefree of all.

Read this book. It is a fascinating read in terms of empathy and compassion. It is unique, but for all the right reasons. It is sad, but it is honest. It forces you to feel for the characters. It is very well written with frequent flashbacks and the strange and inquisitive workings of Nomi's mind. It is a fantastic book.


Teen Blogger

[Editor's Note: A Complicated Kindess by Miriam Toews was the winner of both the Governor General's Literary Award for Fiction and the CLA Young Adult Book Award. You can find it in the Adult Fiction section of the Library.]


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