Not only did I read A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews for my Canada Reads Challenge but also for Book Awards II Challenge. A Complicated Kindness won The Governor General's Award in 2004.
Basically here's the story of a girl who is discovering herself, being a teenager is hard, but when you there are family member missing, it gives an added edge. Nomi's sister and mother both left, she now lives alone with her father in a Mennonite community which she feels that strangling her. She wants to break free, discover new things, live in the East Village (the one in NYC!), she wants to experiment. But the strong ties that her father has to the community and their way of life is too strong.
I want to share with you a paragraph from the first chapter, I love her humor, or I guess you can say her sarcastic humor:
We’re Mennonites. Five hundred years ago in Europe a man named Menno Simons set off to do his own peculiar religious thing and he and his followers were beaten up and killed or forced to conform all over Holland, Poland, and Russia until they, at least some of them, finally landed right here where I sit. Imagine the least well-adjusted kid in your school starting a breakaway clique of people whose manifesto includes a ban on the media, dancing, smoking , temperate climates, movies, drinking, rock’n’roll, having sex for fun, swimming, makeup, jewellery, playing pool, going to cities, or staying up past nine o’clock. That was Menno all over. Thanks a lot, Menno.
I found the idea of this book very interesting. I live very close to a Mennonite community, and I find them fascinating. I know a few and they're hard working, family oriented people, who follow different rules. I thought that this book would be more of a celebration of her individuality, but it really is a book about her self discovery. Her confusion, her wanting to know what happen to her mom and her sister rule her. I was expecting something and I get something totally different.
I found the way the book was written to be a little hard to follow the storyline. It jumps from present to past and back again without warning. Which confused me at times and I had to go back a couple of pages and re-read them again.
Overall I found the story just okay. There wasn't really anything that grabbed me, but I did find the last couple of chapters more interesting than the previous ones.
I do have to mention that this book was the winner of the Canada Reads in 2006. I guess a part of me can understand why this book was (and still is) so well liked, but I have problems with it being the favourite. Oh well....
A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews (3/5) General Fiction; Published: Alfred A. Knopf Canada (2004); Canada Reads; Winner of Governor General's Award 2004; Book Awards II (5); 2009 100 + Reading Challenge (5); 2009 Support Your Local Library Challenge (3);