#FridayReads: All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews

All My Puny Sorrows coverSuicide is not the kind of thing you discuss at the dinner table.

Even when we do talk about it, we tend to take one point of view: Prevent it at all costs.

But who are we to decide what course someone else should take?

Miriam Toews’ novel All My Puny Sorrows raises that question and then thoroughly explores it.

The narrator, Yolandi, fiercely tries to prevent her sister Elfrieda from committing suicide like their father did. Elfrieda is a successful pianist with a wonderful husband and good friends. Yolandi, by contrast, is divorced, feels she’s botched parenting her two teenagers, and can’t get her love life straight.

Even with all her troubles, Yolandi wants to live. So why does Elfrieda, with her charmed life, want to kill herself? And by extension, why does anyone want to kill themselves?

The writing style is semi-stream-of-consciousness, and it’s done well. Each sentence drips with tension and raw emotion; this book is a literary page-turner. Frequent white space gives the reader some breathing room between Yolandi’s breathless musings.

I’m halfway through the book, and I have no idea if Elfrieda will succeed in killing herself or not. I find myself torn between wanting her to embrace life and wanting her to be happy—which would mean suicide.

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