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A Complicated Kindness Paperback – May 1 2007


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Canada (May 1 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0676978568
  • ISBN-13: 978-0676978568
  • Product Dimensions: 20.1 x 13.2 x 2.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 272 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #47,871 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)


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3.4 out of 5 stars
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35 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Sarah McIntyre on Oct. 11 2004
Format: Hardcover
I found this book fascinating. On first reading, this book seemed to be one teenager's long downward spiral into depression, interspersed with a few beautiful or humorous moments. But a shadowy glimpse of a some more complex themes drew me back to it for a second reading, where I was delighted to find the writing tight and full of well-chosen imagery and recurring themes.
The narrator, Nomi, writes near the beginning: "People here just can't wait to die, it seems. It's the main event. The only reason we're not all snuffed at birth is because that would reduce our suffering by a lifetime. My guidance counsellor has suggested to me that I change my attitude about this place and learn to love it. But I do, I told her. Oh, that's rich, she said. That's rich."
Nomi chafes against the inflexibility and lack of forgiveness in many members of her religious community, but as she struggles to understand the undercurrents which have driven her mother and elder sister into the void beyond the town, she begins to be able to tap into the honesty of her family to imagine something bigger and better than the only place she knows. "I have a problem with endings," she writes, and she cannot satisfy her English teacher by drawing her essays to a neat close. In the same way, she can't seem to accept her pastor uncle's neat package of rigid definitions explaining her existence, with no mysteries or forgiveness for weakness. When a nurse at the hospital criticises her invalid friend Lydia for being so needy, Nomi objects 'But isn't that what a hosp...(ital is for?)" When the church throws out a man for being unable to overcome alcoholism, the reader wants to ask, "But isn't that what a church community is for?
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Reeda Reader on Sept. 14 2006
Format: Paperback
I was reminded so many times while reading A COMPLICATED KINDNESS of the book THE BARK OF THE DOGWOOD with its themes of family dysfunction, memory, repressed memories, struggles to freedom, and a host of other scenarios and ideas that played throughout this novel. Set in Manitoba, Nomi is the main character who struggles with her famlies religious zealousness and fragile existence. Dealing with the Mennonites and a coming-of-age tale that is anything but unusual, you'll find yourself drawn to this story in a way that won't let you put the book down. But the novel isn't all darkness. There's a great deal of humor and wit in it. If you liked the novels THE KITE RUNNER and BARK OF THE DOGWOOD, then this book will work for you. Of couse, the settings are entirely different for all three, but the same themes of struggle are there. Great stuff, all.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on Jan. 21 2006
Format: Paperback
I can't belive all the negative reviews. I loved this book. I've lent it to 5 people (all of them loved it) and I have a few more friends inline to read it. I laughed out-loud many times, my family even has little inside jokes about some of the characters. "Hide the sponge" is enough to send us into fits of giggles.
I loved the way the novel was written. The jumpy, sometimes confusing style reflects the way a young girl would tell a story. Listen to how teenage girls speak- Toews nailed it. It isn't the story of a grown woman looking back on her childhood, it would have spoiled the story had it been written in an adult tone.

The novel struck a chord with me as my family was disowned by the Mennonite community about 60 years ago. I had always wondered what it would have been like if I had been raised a Mennonite. This novel did a wonderful job of answering a lot of my questions. It's hilarious and heart-breaking at the same time. Oh, so highly recommended!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth White on July 14 2006
Format: Paperback
Miriam Toews' novel, A Complicated Kindness, is an intriguing, almost voyeuristic look into an unfamiliar culture. It is essentially about a young girl's life growing up in an oppressive, small town, where her family and community are trapped in legalistic religious traditions. It is an example of how, in this case Christianity, but any religion for that matter, can destroy a family and community when the essential love, hope and forgiveness are removed from the tenets of their faith. Still, Toews is careful to show that even the most messed up religious fanatics have their own brand of kindness--however complicated it may be. The book held my interest throughout as I felt a strong empathy for the heroine and her family. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys reading about religion gone amuck, other people's culture, or a young woman coming of age in difficult circumstances. Here's a warning though: it is not for those looking for an uplifting, light read or a tidy and hope-filled ending, as it is injected with sardonic humour and biting realism throughout the book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By CeeGeeKay on Jan. 5 2009
Format: Paperback
I consumed this book over the course of a few days. It was easy to read and I particularly enjoyed the casual writing style, the lack of use of parentheses to denote dialogue. It made it "easy" to get into Nomi's character.

My dad's side of the family is from a Mennonite background and having little connection to it growing up I appreciated the introduction, albeit quite cynical and negative at times. However, anyone who grew up in a small town on the prairies will find the story hits close to home. I certainly felt nostalgia for my own teenage years growing up in a tiny town.

I will read it again and other novels by this author.
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