A review of
A Complicated Kindness
by Miriam Toews
Those of us who felt oppressed as teenagers can easily recall how any act of rule-bending, whether it was puffing a cigarette or starting an ill-advised romance, could seem an enormous yet thrilling risk of outsized proportions. For Nomi Nickel, the sixteen-year-old heroine of A Complicated Kindness, these same risks are anything but outsized. A teenager and small-town Mennonite, Nomi is barred from makeup, sex, dancing, smoking, rock-and-roll; even fantasizing about a life in Montreal or New York City—places where, presumably, such temptations exist in unavoidable abundance—is to risk being shunned by her family and neighbors. Miriam Toews (pronounced Taves), the award-winning Canadian author of three earlier books, embodies Nomi’s voice with such an authentic and manic charm that it’s hard not to fall in love with her, this young woman who can only wonder what it’s like to be one of the Americans who come to her Manitoba town to gawk at “the world’s most non-progressive community.”
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