All My Puny Sorrows

by Miriam Toews | Literature & Fiction |
ISBN: 1940450691 Global Overview for this book
Registered by wingMmeClintonwing of South Berwick, Maine USA on 11/23/2018
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1 journaler for this copy...
Journal Entry 1 by wingMmeClintonwing from South Berwick, Maine USA on Friday, November 23, 2018
Miriam Toews' book (not a biographical novel, she has said, and yet the most important parts of the plot are personal lived experiences....) All My Puny Sorrows was the November selection at the Music Hall Book Group. I liked the book a lot but neither loved it (as some did) or disliked much of it (as others did). Our discussion for almost an hour and a quarter was all about the mystery of why someone would choose to end her life. First of all, even though this was a major focus of the novel, there were many other subjects to talk about, which we made occasional tentative steps towards weaving into the discussion, and second, I was saddened by the number of people who for whatever reasons just couldn't understand that a person young and smart and accomplished couldn't just choose to snap out of it. There seemed to be too many comments which basically felt a suicidal person was being selfish... but then those struggling with differently wired brains abound, and for any of us to judge others as deficient somehow because they do not respond to life as we do strikes me as contrary to all empathy in the universe. Okay, enough personal pain there! In this novel, as in Toews' life, there seem to be a lot of family members who have committed suicide. In the novel, the focus is on Elf, the older sister of the narrator, who keeps trying to die (her father and cousin have already done so). Yet it is as much about those who are trying so hard to keep her alive. Products of a Mennonite upbringing not thoroughly embraced by most of the immediate family, culture is only a part of this story. Our narrator Yoli has a very messy life, most likely similar to many of our own, but (as far as we can tell in the novel), she is not driven to the existential despair being at the core of her older sister, whose only true escape in life has been the piano.. and her ability to translate her intense emotions into her music so wondrously as to have become a world-renowned concert pianist. There are many lesser characters worthy of discussion: the mother who remains moving forward with wit and wisdom and cheer even when faced with multiple tragedies (as all of us who live long enough will inevitably do), Elf's husband who is sweet and loving and perplexed and puts his faith in the medical establishment, the various men who temporarily enter Yoli's life as she faces divorce and two almost grown children...There is love abounding in this novel, just as I feel it is, after all, the underpinning of all that makes us treasure the unexpected reality of being a live human being. Not a bad way to end a review on Thanksgiving Day!

Journal Entry 2 by wingMmeClintonwing at When Pigs Fly Company Store and PIzzeria in Kittery, Maine USA on Friday, November 23, 2018

Released 6 mos ago (11/23/2018 UTC) at When Pigs Fly Company Store and PIzzeria in Kittery, Maine USA

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on the bench near the entrances

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