Thursday, July 02, 2009

Miriam Toews: A Complicated Kindness

I recently read A Complicated Kindness, the 2004 Governor General's Award winner, a moving, first person account of life in a desolate Mennonite village in southern Manitoba told from the perspective of 16-year-old Nomi (né Naomi) Nickel.

What Toews succeeds in doing so well is activate a voice that is at once authentic and recognizable. Nomi sounds like a girl I grew up with - she's familiar and believable - but she is also absolutely unique, unlike anyone else I've ever known. In fiction her predecessors are Holden Caulfield and more recently Chappie from Russell Banks' Rule Of The Bone. She's sardonic, cynical and aching to be anywhere else but here.

"One day, when I was nine years old, I got up early and went for a walk around town. I wore a thin white cotton T-shirt, navy-blue polyester pants to resemble real denim, and North Star runners with no socks. I walked around and around and I felt so good. I felt happier than I had ever felt in my entire life, perfectly content and absolutely carefree.

When I got to school I told my teacher I was on cloud nine. I told her I was so happy I thought I could fly. I told her I felt so great I wanted to dance like Fred Astaire.

She said life was not a dream. And dancing was a sin. Now get off it and sit back down. It was the first time in my life that I had been aware of my own existence. It was the first time in my life I had realized that I was alive."
This is the type of particular beauty that I'm aiming to bring to my novel. It's also in the first person and involves a main character struggling to realize his own identity against insurmountable odds. Much of it is also set in a religious community with its members at odds with each other...stay tuned.

In the meantime, here's Fred and Ginger alive and kicking in Swing Time:

1 comment:

  1. thanks for linking to my site!

    i been having alot of trouble with people using the pick without asking and without posting who draw it so, thanks for being kind enough to at least link back,