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All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews: dark and funny

Updated: Feb 2, 2023

All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews is a funny but tragic tale of two bright, sharp, witty sisters, Elf and Yoli, who are very different.

It covers big themes: love, religion (fundamentalism), psychiatric ‘care’ and the will to live; is there a ‘suicide gene’ and if so, is it inherited or due to upbringing?

Humour is the weapon and coping mechanism of Yoli, the narrating character, so although the book covers dark themes it is also very funny.

Written without direct dialogue, it’s a train of Yoli’s thoughts, and this works very well.

Set against a background of a Canadian Mennonite community in which the girls grew up, Yoli tries to help her beautiful, talented, happily-married concert pianist sister Elf who no longer wishes to live. I had tears in my eyes at the end.

This was actually a very light read which I raced through. Only when I got to the very end did I realise it was personal.

Thank you to my guest blogger, Annette Peppis.

Annette leads the team at Peppis Designworks, a creative hub of established publishing industry experts who create books, branding, marketing material and design templates for leading publishers and businesses. Keep in touch by subscribing to Annette’s bi-monthly emails.

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