All My Puny Sorrows


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Interview: Zoe Williams meets Miriam Toews

Yoli is a beguiling mess, wickedly funny even as she stumbles through life struggling to keep her teenage kids and mother happy, her exes from hating her, her sister from killing herself and her own heart from breaking. But Elf's latest suicide attempt is a shock: she is three weeks away from the opening of her highly anticipated international tour. Her long-time agent has been calling and neither Yoli nor Elf's loving husband knows what to tell him.

Can she be nursed back to "health" in time? Does it matter? As the situation becomes ever more complicated, Yoli faces the most terrifying decision of her life. She finally succeeds in killing herself. Yoli packs up Nora, calls Will and they all rush to Winnipeg for the funeral.

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After the funeral Lottie suffers a heart attack and has to be hospitalized. It is decided that she will move to Toronto when she recovers. Elf has left Yoli her life insurance money. Yoli uses the money to buy a fixer upper in a low rent neighborhood in Toronto. She gets it livable by the time Lottie arrives from Winnipeg. Lottie deals with her grief by becoming an active part of the community, making friends and joining a church group.

Yoli prank calls the Winnipeg hospital at all hours asking to speak to her sister and demanding to know why they let her go. Eventually, after her mother confronts her, she moves on.

All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews

The book ends with Yoli dreaming she and Elf are in Switzerland. Read more from the Study Guide. Browse all BookRags Study Guides. All rights reserved. Toggle navigation. Sign Up. Sign In.

View the Study Pack. Plot Summary. Chapter 1. Chapter 2. Chapter 3. Chapter 4. Chapter 5. I've never read anything by Miriam Toews before, but I was truly wowed by her ability to inhabit these characters. This is an incredibly moving book about the toll depression and suicide have not only on the person struggling, but on those who care about them. It's also a story about finding the strength to carry on when it feels like you have nothing left, and everything seems to be going against you.

This is a hard book to read because of the emotional nature of the subject matter and the suffering that the characters endure and I've only scratched the surface in my description , but Toews' prose is so lyrical, almost poetic at times, and it truly immerses you in the story. At times it got a bit difficult because the hits kept on coming, and it was hard to watch Yoli make such a mess of her own life at the same time, but the beauty and power of Toews' writing compels you to soldier on. View all 8 comments. Feb 20, Petra rated it it was amazing Shelves: canadian-author , bee-books.

Beautifully told. This is a heartfelt, touching story.

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QS Book Club Presents: All my Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews

Every page tells a loving story of a wonderful relationship between two close, loving sisters. Their love for each other shines through always. They each wanted only what was best for the other. The agonizing decision comes when deciding what "the best" means and how to define it in a meaningful, caring, understanding way. Miriam Toews has such grace and stamina. Her love and sorrow for her sister is always present and never once does she fo Beautifully told.

Her love and sorrow for her sister is always present and never once does she forget the gift of her sister. Live well and be happy, Miriam. Mar 27, Chrissie rated it it was amazing Shelves: canada , fiction , audible-uk , read , philo-psychol , humor , favorites , relationships. For me this book was amazing.

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Usually books of fiction fall short for me, and so when I run across one that is superb I want to give it the acclaim I think it deserves. It was a roller-coaster ride. The humor is ironic. We laugh and cry at today's world. The humor focuses upon our whole contemporary lifestyle. We have made such medical advances and yet our medical institutions fail us. It has to be us h For me this book was amazing. It has to be us humans that are doing something wrong.

Yeah, except that our phones are always turned off. Sure we have sophisticated telephone switchboards, but when you are trying to get ahold of someone you never can. I promise you, when you read this you will recognize snapshots from your own life Suicide is a choice. In choosing, we must evaluate the beauty and wonder of life as well as all the hardships it brings.


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But do we choose, or is it that one's propensity to choose suicide over life is in fact in our genes? It was this question that made me pick up the book, but I never guessed that the writing would so emotionally draw me in. She does this with her choice of words. Words are important. In fact this is also a theme of the novel. Authors and poets and music are referred to — Virginia Woolf and D.

This book let me experience the deep bond that can grow between sisters. So that is what sisterhood is all about! The audiobook narration by Erin Moon is s-t-u-p-e-n-d-o-u-s! You recognize immediately who is speaking and the tone she uses for each is pitch-perfect. Each character is given a voice that magnificently matches their personality.

I am not going to say the narration improves the book, because the lines are fantastic in themselves, but if you choose to listen then choose this narrator.

All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews review – darkly fizzing tragicomedy

I wholeheartedly recommend this book to everyone. It covers important issues. It will move you. It contains humor, deep sorrow and excellent writing. Did the two take a trip we were not told of? This is the only explanation I can draw from the final lines. We are told Elf committed suicide by throwing herself in front of a train, just as her father had.

At an earlier point in the book, Yoli wonders if Elf understood Yoli just didn't have the guts to take her sister to Switzerland where euthanasia was legally permitted. Why would she think that if she had taken her there? Maybe Yoli is just thinking of what it might have been like if they had gone. Petra also gave me the two links which I think are important for those who have read the book.

They may be considered spoilers. Thank you, Petra! View all 19 comments. I enjoyed the peek into the Canadian Mennonite community, and was glad to extend my meager knowledge of Canadian authors in general. As you come to the end of this sobering but enjoyable novel, you might question what it is that keeps you going and what it is that makes you want it all to be over.

Toews makes good ironic use of the differences between her fictional sisters, but in the end it seems that it might be more a matter of luck than genetics. Nov 18, Will Ansbacher rated it it was amazing.


  1. All My Puny Sorrows By Miriam Toews - The encuculche.tk?
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  8. Christ, this is a hard book to read. At once profoundly moving and deeply painful, but still witty, ironic and extremely funny in places. The narrator, Yoli Yolanda sees herself as a middle-aged fuckup who desperately needs her older sister Elf Elfrieda -- an internationally-famous concert pianist with what seems like a perfect life -- as her life preserver. While she is in hospital, their aunt Tina has a cardiac incident and is hospitalized too.

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    But rejecting help is part of her condition — the medical staff simply need her to be less ill than she actually is before they have anything to offer. What would this team do with her? What would Elf do with the team?

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