All My Puny Sorrows

All My Puny Sorrows

Book - 2014
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Elf and Yoli are sisters. While on the surface Elfrieda's life is enviable (she's a world-renowned pianist, glamorous, wealthy, and happily married) and Yolandi's a mess (she's divorced and broke, with two teenagers growing up too quickly), they are fiercely close -- raised in a Mennonite household and sharing the hardship of Elf's desire to end her life. After Elf's latest attempt, Yoli must quickly determine how to keep her family from falling apart, how to keep her own heart from breaking, and what it means to love someone who wants to die.

All My Puny Sorrows is the latest novel from Miriam Toews, one of Canada's most beloved authors -- not only because her work is rich with deep human feeling and compassion but because her observations are knife-sharp and her books wickedly funny. And this is Toews at her finest: a story that is as much a comedy as it is a tragedy, a goodbye grin from the friend who taught you how to live.
Publisher: San Francisco, CA : McSweeney's Publishing, [2014].
ISBN: 9781940450278
Branch Call Number: TOEWS M
Characteristics: 317 pages ; 22 cm


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LPL_KateG Sep 28, 2015

This book was a total gut-punch, and yet also absolutely hilarious at times. Toews navigates this comi-tragedy with grace and wit, and I can't wait to read more of her works.

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Nov 12, 2020

Absolutely stunning book! I cannot recommend it highly enough. To narrow it down to its essence, it's a story of a family, a really interesting family. Two sisters are growing up in a Canadian Mennonite community where each of their teenage behaviors bring down severe criticism from the church Elders. The Mennonite Church does not allow musical instruments. The older sister is a gifted pianist whose lessons are secret. They hide the piano in a back room covered with a tablecloth. I don't want to give away any additional details of this story but I found it extremely touching, and meaningful to me as the mother of a recently deceased daughter.

Sep 28, 2020

The audiobook is really good for what it is, however I couldn't finish it as the topic is really not inspiring during covid. The one sister is trying to kill herself the entire book, just not appealing right now.

Sep 02, 2020

All My Puny Sorrows is known for its heartwrenching poignancy and laughter. This story focuses on two sisters, Elfrieda and Yolandi. Getting to know the siblings were very entertaining, as they are two completely different people! All-embracing, Miriam Toews writes a novel that thoroughly demonstrates how to carry hope and love and the business of living even when life throws an obstacle your way. This novel teaches its audience that grief, anxiety, sorrow and depression are all natural things humans experience when they lose a loved one. This read centres around Yolandi and her struggle with guilt for not being able to pull her sister from the darkness of despair. Toews puts excellent effort into capturing the helplessness that surrounds depression. The two reasons why I did not give this a full-star rating is first because it was a hefty read for me, so I had to put it down frequently and step back from it. Secondly, I do not think it was strong enough to defy the feelings of depression and other mental-health related conditions. If you are a fan of the novel Me Before You, this read should this as well. 4/5 stars
@Bookland of the Hamilton Public Library's Teen Review Board

Aug 26, 2019

Tea & Talk Book Club / October 2017

Mar 13, 2019

A funny, heart-wrenching book about two sisters. One wants to live and one does not.
Despite its subject of suicide and death it is a book full of life.

I seem to love sad and funny books. If you do too, then you must read this book. It is so very sad, dealing with the repeated attempted suicides of a sister and the imperfections of family relationships. However, it’s funny too as families and small towns can be quirky and humorous. Toews’ very skillful writing makes it all feel real. I think she just might be my favourite author ever as I love and highly recommend her other fiction also, especially A Complicated Kindness and A Boy of Good Breeding. (submitted by KA)

Apr 20, 2017

Wittily, prettily written in MORBID fast-paced Gilmore Girls style. All the banter would equate to rollicking fun if it weren't all so unbearably sad. Perhaps I could instead enjoy Yoli's boat book, knowing only that it begins with L.
Lottie drinks life to its lees!
Long life
"We'd had a bit of an argument then because I told him that it was ludicrous to think that we could just talk our way out of shame, that shame was necessary, that it prevented us from repeating shameful actions and that it motivated us to say we were sorry and to seek forgiveness and to empathize with our fellow humans and to feel the pain of self-loathing which motivated some of us to write books as a futile attempt at atonement, and shame also helped, I told my friend, to fuck up relationships and fucked-up relationships are the life force of books and movies and theater so sure, let's get rid of shame but then we can kiss art goodbye too. But now, as I climbed these concrete steps holding my hands and fingers to my nose to check if I reeked of sex or motor oil, I longed for a life without shame."
"I ask her if she wants to play a few rounds of Dutch Blitz, the only Mennonite-sanctioned card game, because instead of sinful-connoting things like clubs and hearts and diamonds and spades on the cards it has ploughs and buckets and wagons and pumps and because it's a game based on speed and concentration, not sneakiness, and the small room glows when she smiles."

Mar 26, 2017

I thoroughly enjoyed Toews’ style of flippant irreverence despite the heart-wrenching subject matter. It’s all about feelings from the point of view of one sister and, although the author doesn’t delve into the ethics of suicide – self-inflicted or assisted, the story line is strong and offers hope for the others in living beyond the grief.

Feb 16, 2017

Reading this book sometimes feels like reading a dream, where thoughts and dialogue are indistinguishable from one another, time shifts between memory and the present, and two sisters are so similar, yet so different. One sister wants to live, one wants to die, yet they both feel joy and pain and share happy memories in the same way. The funny dialogue between the two sisters can make you forget that one of them wants to die, and is what keeps this book funny and optimistic, despite the serious subject matter. Miriam Toews is able to address the issue of mental health, patient care, religion, art and family dynamics with love and compassion without ever falling into sounding preachy or sanctimonious. One of my favourite books and I recommend it.

Oct 05, 2016

This novel reads like a memoir and is in fact heavily autobiographical. Yoli is a single mother of two kids by two fathers, barely makes ends meet but is full of life. Her older sister, by contrast, is beautiful and happily married and a world renowned pianist and desperately wants to kill herself. This is the story of a family's struggle to keep a loved one alive against her wishes. Dark but also quite witty and very smart.

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DBRL_ReginaF Apr 03, 2018

It was the first time that we had sort of articulated our major problem. She wanted to die and I wanted her to live and we were enemies who loved each other.


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