April 21, 2016

Review ( + Thoughts) | All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews


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"Can't you just be like the rest of us, normal and sad and fucked up and alive and remorseful?"

"Where does violence go, if not directly back into our blood and bones?"

"Wild was the worst thing you could become in a community rigged for compliance."



It has been a week since I've finished this book and I still cannot shake off the feeling that it left me with. The messages and themes that Miriam Toews explored in All My Puny Sorrows were heavy, potent, important. For some reason, I do not read many books by Canadian authors, although I should because I found a deep love for this book.

The writing style is different but interesting; it was a little difficult to get into after reading All The Light We Cannot See, as it was a completely different style. However, it also allowed me to come to a greater understanding of Yolandi, from whose perspective the entire book is told.

There were moments as I was reading this that I had to put the book down and just take a moment to breathe; certain scenes within the book just tore away at my heart - the sadness, the tragedy, the darkness, the beauty would just fill my eyes up with tears, and weigh down my heart. The story is about Elfrieda, a pianist who is plagued by depression and has attempted suicide many times. It is also about Yolandi, her sister, who is trying to help Elfrieda, but not knowing exactly how to help her, what the right thing to do is.

The book really made me question what I would do if I were put in such a situation; how would I help a friend or family member who wanted nothing more than to take their own life away? Or, how would someone help me if I were the one who wanted to die? What would you do? Being a pianist, I understand the stress and pressure behind practicing every day, to maintain that level of perfection and skill, to continue impressing others. With age comes the understanding of the songs, the deeper connection rather than just playing the right notes at the right times, but really knowing what the composer wanted to convey and then making it your own. I think that was one of the reasons that the book grew so heavy on me too, was because I could almost relate to Elfrieda.

I didn't read many reviews before reading the book, as usual, because I don't want my opinion to be phased by others until afterward. However, upon reading them I noticed many people talking about how the book is semi-autobiographical, which just makes this book all the more sorrowful. All My Puny Sorrows is not for the light-hearted, but I definitely would recommend it if you were up to reading something more meaningful.

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