If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram, you’ve probably seen me talking about Miriam Toews’ latest book All My Puny Sorrows. As with all the books I love I’m a little wary of over-hyping this one with my review but, to be honest, this novel deserves all the praise it receives.
All My Puny Sorrows is mainly about two sisters, Elf and Yoli. They love each other dearly but have one major conflict standing in their way: Elf wants to die and Yoli wants to motivate her and keep her alive. The book follows Yoli as she tries to decide whether she should continue holding on to her sister or respect her wishes and aid her in committing suicide. It’s a heart-wrenching journey yet, somehow, there continues to be a glimmer of hope sprinkled throughout the novel. What happens? You’ll have to read it to find out.
I think this is one of the most important books I’ve read so far this year. In the book, Yoli grapples with the idea of suicide; is it cowardly? Is it selfish? Irresponsible? Understandably, she struggles to come to terms with Elf’s determination to die yet there’s a part of her that loves her sister so much that she wants to help her. Is it selfish to keep someone alive when they want to die? These questions are so crucial to ask and Toews handles it delicately and skillfully.
I found myself agreeing with a lot of the conversation in the novel, or at least the stance that the novel puts forth. Toews has personal experience with the subject and because of it, she knows how to navigate this touchy topic perfectly. She understands how it feels like to be in that situation; as a result, All My Puny Sorrows is a poignant, difficult, yet hopeful piece of work that shows without preaching and sympathizes without judging. The writing style didn’t bother me at all (there are no quotation marks to signify when people are speaking); the style gives the book a very specific tone that works really well. The dust jacket describes the novel as “tender and unquiet” and I agree wholeheartedly. This is a masterful work and I urge you to read it. I finished reading it almost a week ago and I’m still thinking about it and will be for a long time.
Verdict: Honest, poignant, heart-wrenching book that deals with a difficult subject. A must-read.
Read if: You enjoy wonderfully written prose, insightful discussions, books that focus on familial relationships.
Have you read All My Puny Sorrows? If you have, what did you think? If you haven’t, do you think you’ll read it?