creative [kree-ey-tiv]: adjective. Synonyms: clever, cool, innovative, inspired, prolific, stimulating.

criticism [krit-uh-siz-uhm]: noun. The act of passing judgment as to the merits of anything.

23 Apr 2010

A complicated kindness - Miriam Toews

I just finished reading "a complicated kindness", a novel with an all-minuscules title by Miriam Toews. Or should I say MIRIAM TOEWS?
The first thing a potential reader might ask at the sight of this book is why there is a chicken on the cover, and why an axe is trying to sneak up on said chicken. To be honest, I don't know why, and I doubt the chicken and axe would.
Ok, I know why they're there; it's a metaphor for Nomi Nickels (the chicken) and her situation. You see, this first-person narrator lives in a small Mennonite town, where there really isn't much to do; her only viable career choice is to work at the chicken slaughterhouse for a few decades. And this community is essentially controlled by the church; the guy in charge of the church and things, that Nomi calls "The Mouth" (there's the axe!), apparently has enough influence to make the entire town shun people, and his pronouncements of excommunication are a very! big! deal!
Because hell is real and awful and only the "chosen" are let into heaven!
Now, I don't want to sum up the story, that's what reviews are for. And this isn't a review, I'm just here to spout my opinion, so let's cut to the chase: this book is boring.
It's essentially the Catcher in the Rye, and I didn't need to read it again. Here are all of the exciting things Nomi does:
  1. She smokes a lot (every page or so)
  2. She gets high, sometimes
  3. She hangs out and has a weird relationship with her boyfriend Travis
  4. She reminisces about the past, especially about things that involved her mother or her sister (both have left the town some time before the book's beginning)
  5. She has awkward semi-conversations
I've just summed up most of the book. There's also a sub-plot involving an assignment she has to write in order to pass her twelfth grade (warning: there a twist at the end! What! A! Surprise!), and another one involving one of her friends who is in the hospital for an unexplained reason, and that's it. Twenty-eight chapters, two hundred and forty-six pages of teenage angst, condensed in one half-assed thing composed for your reading pleasure.
And speaking of reading pleasure: according to the reviews on the back cover of the book, David Bergen (who?) said that "This is Miriam Toews at her best.". In that case, I cannot imagine the misery of reading her at her mediocre-to-average.
This might be harsh, but I'm right and you know it.

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