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All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews

toewsWhen All My Puny Sorrows debuted last year, I shied away from the book because I assumed it would be sad. Lucky for me, my friend lent me her copy and I’m so glad she did because this book was so good! I may have even picked it over Station Eleven as the best book I read in 2014 if I had finished it by the end of the year.

THE BOOK
Miriam Toews is a Canadian writer and All My Puny Sorrows is her seventh book. In 2014, the book won the Rogers Writer’s Trust Fiction Prize and was shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize. Miriam says the story is based on the 2010 suicide of her own sister.

* CONTAINS SPOILERS

THE STORY
All My Puny Sorrows is the touching story of Elf and Yoli, two extremely close sisters growing up in a Mennonite community and their muddled lives as adults. The reader goes back and forth in time with Yoli describing their relationship, their unconventional parents and Elf’s career as concert pianist. Depression seems to be a family trait and after years of suffering, Elf is committed to a hospital after attempting to end her life. Yoli, Elf’s husband and numerous family and friends rally to convince Elf that she is loved and she can’t give up on life, but Elf has made up her mind and has other plans.

THE GOOD
While I was impressed by how Jojo Moyes handled the subject of suicide in Me Before You, Miriam Toews takes it to a whole other level, one with beauty, wisdom and laughter. Even now, I feel that description hardly gives enough due to her excellent writing. I truly enjoyed Yoli as the narrator, a disheveled single mom going through a divorce and who is constantly on the brink of losing her mind.

THE BAD
If anything, the topic of suicide and assisted suicide may be a delicate one for some readers.

CONCLUSION
All My Puny Sorrows is a brilliant novel about loving someone deeply and how much your loved ones are a part of you. Although the subject matter is heavy, Miriam Toews’ storytelling keeps the tone mostly spirited and funny, lightly exploring the impact of depression and suicide. Her characters were so vivid in my mind, I felt as if I knew them in real life. I loved Yoli’s slapdash approach to each day, better-laugh-before-I-cry thinking and empathized deeply as she tried so hard to prove her love to her sister. A beautiful, unforgettable book that I highly recommend.

4.5/5 Stars

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10 comments on “All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews

  1. Naomi
    January 20, 2015

    I’m so glad you liked it! This topic would be so hard to write about in a way that would engage most readers, and she nailed it. It could have been completely depressing, but it isn’t, thanks to Yoli and her funny thoughts. There were so many great quotes in here, too. Not everyone has been impressed with this book, but I can’t understand why. I would really like to read Swing Low.

    Like

    • ebookclassics
      January 21, 2015

      I’ve been seeing a lot of reviews by U.S. media, so I hope her book gets lots of recognition.

      Like

      • Naomi
        January 21, 2015

        So do I. Sweetland seems to be doing well down there, too.

        Like

        • ebookclassics
          January 21, 2015

          Seeing lots of good review for Sweetland too! I’m still waiting for my library hold to come in at two different libraries. I’m like 500-something out of 1000-something.

          Like

          • Naomi
            January 21, 2015

            That’s a lot of people!! Good for the book, bad for you. Maybe they should invest in a few more copies. 🙂

            Like

  2. My Book Strings
    January 20, 2015

    You are on a reading roll! I got this book for Christmas and I am looking forward to reading it, hopefully some time in February.

    Like

  3. DoingDewey
    January 29, 2015

    Wow, this sounds like a wonderful read. Great review 🙂

    Like

    • ebookclassics
      January 30, 2015

      Thanks! It’s a very moving story. Incredibly funny and well-written. I hope you get to check it out.

      Like

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This entry was posted on January 20, 2015 by in Reviews and tagged , , .

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