*** This is a review containing my opinions on the book, including details!! SPOILER ALERT! ***
A Complicated Kindness, by Miriam Toews, 2004
The story is about Nomi, a 16 year old Mennonite girl living in a secluded village in Manitoba. She lives alone with her father; her mother and older sister Tash have both "gone missing". In reality, Tash has become atheist and left town with her boyfriend, while Nomi's mother, Trudie, has been excommunicated from the Meno faith. Trudie left town to save Ray, her husband and Nomi's father to have to decide between his wife and the church. At least that's what Nomi originally thinks--the reader is left with more options concerning Trudie's absence near the end of the book. Nomi and Ray are surviving together, both struggling at the loss of their loved ones in their own ways.
I really enjoyed the unique feel this book had. It was easy for me to become attached to Nomi. The story was slightly hard to get into at the beginning (not much action), but after I pushed through the first chapters it became much more gripping. Throughout the story, Nomi is presented as a loveable but misunderstood rebellious tennager trying to discover the meaning of life. She knows there is more to life than her little village. She feels the town is an illusion--she isn't fully aware of what's going on and what the leaders want her to believe. Nomi is conflicted between how she was brought up and her love for her family: Trudie and Tash are going to hell since they left town according to her beliefs, but how can her loved ones who really aren't evil deserve to end up in hell??
Nomi goes through what I interpreted as a mini mental breakdown before the book's end: she is always trying to escape reality by experimenting with drugs (definetely not favorable to the elders!) She also stays out all night almost every night and is failling 12th grade. Her closest friend/boyfriend Travis seens like good company to her throughtout most of the story but ends up leaving her in the end (the following day after he took her virginity, I was so angry with him when I read that part!!!!!!!). Meanwhile Ray is acting suspicious as he slowly sells all the furniture in the house.
Inevitably, Nomi ends up being excommunicated as well for her rebelious behavior and attitudes. I was very shocked by the ending of the book: I was expecting her to leave town with Travis as Tash had also left town with ther boyfriend (but clearly Travis ending up being a jerk). Then I was expecting Nomi to leave with Ray, but to my surprise Ray leaves town by himself in the middle of the night!! The ending is left open so to say--the reader doesn't really know what happens to Nomi, where will she go?? Her father has left her the car and the house to sell, so at least she will have a decent sum of money to build her new life. One thing that is certain is that Nomi finally comes to a spiritual conclusion and everything clicks for her. She sees her faith in a different light. She has hopes for a positive new life and wishes to one day have a family reunion. The book is written in the first person by Nomi, and at the very end the reader finds out it is a narrative for her teacher, Mr Quiring (I really liked that touch).
This book actually won the Governor General's Award for English Fiction!! I really liked it, I thought it was very unique. Have you read it?? xo