I appreciated this book much more on re-read (it's hard to pick a fave of hers - but at least I now have all three that I've read so far clearly in my mind). I am still slightly more impressed with the two that followed, The Flying Troutmans and Irma Voth, but it's only because ... because ... why? It's now the merest gradation of five star-dom that separate them.
There is no doubt that Nomi's 'voice' is a spectacular accomplishment. Distill it, and each drop is pure essence du Toews.
I think that what I struggle with here is the lack of story. The ennui (which is the point, of course) is wearing. I love teen angst and pain as much as anyone, and told this well, this wrenchingly, it's hard to critique. So even typing that, that the lack of story is what differentiates this one from the others, is, I feel, not true.
But it was almost too much, y'know? Paragraph after paragraph of the most stunning, sardonic, almost zeugmatic insights out of this gr 12 Mennonite girl, struggling with a fundamentalist faith that has been imposed on her and an abandonment of monumental proportions. Collapsing under the burden of responsibility and grief, acting out, no relief in sight.
Gahhhh. This writing hurts, physically - it is so beautiful, so painful, so funny. It hits you like a wall, with the most mundane and profound thoughts given equal treatment. This is the brilliance of the writing: that it so perfectly mirrors Nomi's psychological state. Everything is equally important, so nothing is. Complete overload of random, irrelevant and vital detail - so nothing makes sense, nothing has meaning. Standing in the midst of the largest questions about family bonds, love, faith - and all while 'coming of age' to boot.
But here's what I will say about Toews' characters (god, I hope they are not too too autobiographical, but I fear they are): there is a life force in them. A will toward not just survival, but a cathartic, definitive, life-affirming strength that forshadows the emergence from pain as a better, whole and happy person.
Yes. This is what I believe. For each and every one of them.