A finalist for the Governor General's Literary Award
2020 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award
A transformative and necessary work - as completely unexpected as it is inspired - by the award-winning author of the best-selling novels All My Puny Sorrows and A Complicated Kindness.
The sun rises on a quiet June morning in 2009. August Epp sits alone in the hayloft of a barn, anxiously bent over his notebook. He writes quickly, aware that his solitude will soon be broken. Eight women - ordinary grandmothers, mothers, and teenagers; yet to August, each one extraordinary - will climb the ladder into the loft, and the day's true task will begin. This task will be both simple and subversive: August, like the women, is a traditional Mennonite, and he has been asked to record a secret conversation.
Thus begins Miriam Toews' spellbinding novel. Gradually, as we hear the women's vivid voices console, tease, admonish, regale, and debate each other, we piece together the reason for the gathering: they have 48 hours to make a life-altering choice on behalf of all the women and children in the colony. And like a vast night sky coming into view behind the bright sparks of their voices, we learn of the devastating events that have led to this moment.
Acerbic, funny, tender, sorrowful, and wise, Women Talking is composed of equal parts humane love and deep anger. It is award-winning writer Miriam Toews' most astonishing novel to date, containing within its two short days and hayloft setting an expansive, timeless universe of thinking and feeling about women - and men - in our contemporary world.
©2018 Miriam Toews (P)2018 Knopf Canada
Sixteen-year-old Nomi Nickel longs to hang out with Lou Reed and Marianne Faithfull in New York City's East Village. Instead she's trapped in East Village, Manitoba, a small town whose population is Mennonite: "the most embarrassing sub-sect of people to belong to if you're a teenager." East Village is a town with no train and no bar whose job prospects consist of slaughtering chickens at the Happy Family Farms abattoir or churning butter for tourists at the pioneer village. Ministered with an iron fist by Nomi's uncle Hans, a.k.a. The Mouth of Darkness, East Village is a town that's tall on rules and short on fun: no dancing, drinking, rock 'n' roll, recreational sex, swimming, make-up, jewellery, playing pool, going to cities, or staying up past nine o'clock. As the novel begins, Nomi struggles to cope with the back-to-back departures three years earlier of Tash, her beautiful and mouthy sister, and Trudie, her warm and spirited mother. She lives with her father, Ray, a sweet yet hapless schoolteacher whose love is unconditional but whose parenting skills amount to benign neglect. Father and daughter deal with their losses in very different ways. Ray, a committed elder of the church, seeks to create an artificial sense of order by reorganizing the city dump late at night. Nomi, on the other hand, favours chaos as she tries to blunt her pain through "drugs and imagination." Together they live in a limbo of unanswered questions. Nomi's first-person narrative shifts effortlessly between the present and the past. Within the present, Nomi goes through the motions of finishing high school while flagrantly rebelling against Mennonite tradition. She hangs out on Suicide Hill, hooks up with a boy named Travis, goes on the Pill, wanders around town, skips class, and cranks Led Zeppelin. But the past is never far from her mind as she remembers happy times with her mother and sister - as well as the painful events that led them to flee town. Throughout, in a voice both defiant and vulnerable, she offers hilarious and heartbreaking reflections on life, death, family, faith and love. Eventually Nomi's grief - and a growing sense of hypocrisy - cause her to spiral ever downward to a climax that seems at once startling and inevitable. But even when one more loss is heaped on her piles of losses, Nomi maintains hope and finds the imagination and willingness to envision what lies beyond. Few novels in recent years have generated as much excitement as A Complicated Kindness. Winner of the Governor General's Award and a Giller Prize Finalist, Miriam Toews's third novel has earned both critical acclaim and a long and steady position on our national best seller lists.
©2017 Vintage Canada; 2005 Miriam Toews
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.
©2014 Miriam Toews (P)2014 Recorded Books
The city burned beneath the Dreaming Moon. In the ancient city-state of Gujaareh, peace is the only law. Upon its rooftops and amongst the shadows of its cobbled streets wait the Gatherers - the keepers of this peace. Priests of the dream-goddess, their duty is to harvest the magic of the sleeping mind and use it to heal, soothe . . . and kill those judged corrupt. But when a conspiracy blooms within Gujaareh's great temple, Ehiru - the most famous of the city's Gatherers - must question everything he knows. Someone, or something, is murdering dreamers in the goddess' name, stalking its prey both in Gujaareh's alleys and the realm of dreams. Ehiru must now protect the woman he was sent to kill - or watch the city be devoured by war and forbidden magic.
©2012 N. K. Jemisin (P)2012 Hachette Audio
In this completely captivating book, Miriam Toews has created some of the most engaging characters in Canadian literature: Hattie, Logan and Thebes are bewildered, hopeful, angry, and most of all, absolutely alive. Full of richly skewed, richly funny detail, The Flying Troutmans is a uniquely affecting novel. Days after being dumped by her boyfriend Marc in Paris - "he was heading off to an ashram and said we could communicate telepathically" - Hattie hears her sister Min has been checked into a psychiatric hospital, and finds herself flying back to Winnipeg to take care of Thebes and Logan, her niece and nephew. Not knowing what else to do, she loads the kids, a cooler, and a pile of CDs into their van and they set out on a road trip in search of the children's long-lost father, Cherkis. In part because no one has any good idea where Cherkis is, the traveling matters more than the destination. On their wayward, eventful journey down to North Dakota and beyond, the Troutmans stay at scary motels, meet helpful hippies, and try to ignore the threatening noises coming from under the hood of their van. Eleven-year-old Thebes spends her time making huge novelty cheques with arts and crafts supplies in the back, and won't wash, no matter how wild and matted her purple hair gets; she forgot to pack any clothes. Four years older, Logan carves phrases like "Fear Yourself" into the dashboard, and repeatedly disappears in the middle of the night to play basketball; he's in love, he says, with New York Times columnist Deborah Solomon. Meanwhile, Min can't be reached at the hospital, and, more than once, Hattie calls Marc in tears. But though it might seem like an escape from crisis into chaos, this journey is also desperately necessary, a chance for an accidental family to accept, understand or at least find their way through overwhelming times. From interwoven memories and scenes from the past, we learn much more about them: how Min got so sick, why Cherkis left home, why Hattie went to Paris, and what made Thebes and Logan who they are today.
©2008 Miriam Toews (P)2018 Vintage Canada
"A fully immersive, intricately crafted story inspired by the pages of history. In Pheby, Sadeqa Johnson has created a woman whose struggle to survive and to protect the ones she loves will have readers turning the pages as fast as their fingers can fly. Simply enthralling." (Lisa Wingate, number one New York Times best-selling author of Before We Were Yours) Called "wholly engrossing" by New York Times best-selling author Kathleen Grissom, this harrowing story follows an enslaved woman forced to barter love and freedom while living in the most infamous slave jail in Virginia. Born on a plantation in Charles City, Virginia, Pheby Delores Brown has lived a relatively sheltered life. Shielded by her mothers position as the estates medicine woman and cherished by the Masters sister, she is set apart from the others on the plantation, belonging to neither world. Shed been promised freedom on her 18th birthday, but instead of the idyllic life she imagined with her true love, Essex Henry, Pheby is forced to leave the only home she has ever known. She unexpectedly finds herself thrust into the bowels of slavery at the infamous Devils Half Acre, a jail in Richmond, Virginia, where the enslaved are broken, tortured, and sold every day. There, Pheby is exposed not just to her Jailers cruelty but also to his contradictions. To survive, Pheby will have to outwit him, and she soon faces the ultimate sacrifice.
©2021 Sadeqa Johnson. All rights reserved. (P)2021 Simon & Schuster, Inc. All rights reserved.
From the acclaimed Giller Prize finalist and Governor Generals Award winner: a delightfully funny and charming second novel about Canadas smallest town.
Life in Winnipeg didnt go as planned for Knute and her daughter. But living back in Algren with her parents and working for the longtime mayor, Hosea Funk, has its own challenges: Knute finds herself mixed up with Hoseas attempts to achieve his dream of meeting the Prime Minister - even if that means keeping the towns population at an even 1500.
Bringing to life small-town Canada and all its larger-than-life characters, A Boy of Good Breeding is a big-hearted, hilarious novel about finding out where you belong.
©1998 Miriam Toews (P)2018 Vintage Canada
Every politician has a secret. And when the daughter of a politically connected family is kidnapped abroad, America's new president will agree to anything - even a deadly and ill-advised rescue plan - in order to keep his secret hidden. A new administration and a new approach to dealing with America's enemies have left covert counterterrorism operative Scot Harvath without a job. But when American doctor Julia Gallo is kidnapped in Afghanistan, the terms of her ransom leave the president with only one course of action. In a dangerous assignment that the United States government will deny any knowledge of, Scot Harvath must secretly infiltrate Kabul's notorious Policharki Prison and free the man the kidnappers demand as ransom -- al-Qaeda mastermind, Mustafa Khan. But when Harvath arrives, he quickly learns that there is more to the kidnapping than anyone dares to admit. And as the subterfuge is laid bare, Harvath must examine his own career of hunting down and killing terrorists, and ask himself if he has what it takes to help one of the world's worst go free. Brimming with the kind of ripped-from-the-headlines authenticity Brad Thor's internationally bestselling novels are known for, The Apostle doubles down on the blockbuster success of The Last Patriot and reaffirms Thor's status as the master of the political thriller.
©2009 Brad Thor (P)2009 Simon & Schuster
A novel by the Governor Generals Literary Award-winning author of A Complicated Kindness
Lucy Van Alstyne always thought shed grow up to become a forest ranger. Instead, at the age of 18, shes found herself with quite a different job title: single mother on the dole. As for the father of her nine-month-old son, Dillinger, well...it could be any of number of guys.
At the Have-a-Life housing project - aptly nicknamed Half-a-Life by those who call it home - Lucy meets Lish, a zany and exuberant woman whose idea of fashion is a black beret with a big silver spider brooch stuck on it. Lish is the mother of four daughters, two by a man on welfare himself and twins from a one-week stand with a fire-eating busker who stole her heart - and her wallet.
Living on the dole isnt a walk in the park for Lucy and Lish. Dinner almost always consists of noodles. Transportation means pushing a crappy stroller through the rain. Then there are the condescending welfare agents with their dreaded surprise inspections. And just across the street is Serenity Place, another housing project with which Half-a-Life is engaged in a full-on feud. When the women arent busy snitching on each other, theyre spreading rumours - or plotting elaborate acts of revenge.
In the middle of a mosquito-infested rainy season, Lish and Lucy decide to escape the craziness of Half-a-Life by taking to the road. In a van held together with coat-hangers and electrical tape and crammed to the hilt with kids and toys, they set off to Colorado in search of Lishs lost love and the father of her twins. Whether theyll find him is questionable, but the down-and-out adventure helps Lucy realize that this just may be the summer of her amazing luck.
Miriam Toewss debut novel, Summer of My Amazing Luck opens our eyes to a social class rarely captured in fiction. At once hilarious and heartbreaking, it is inhabited by an unforgettable and poignant group of characters. Shortlisted for both the McNally Robinson Book of the Year Award and for the Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour, it also earned Miriam the John Hirsch Award for the Most Promising Manitoba Writer.
©2009 Miriam Toews (P)2018 Vintage Canada
From the award-winning author of A Complicated Kindness comes a heart-wrenching yet wryly funny story about setting out on the road to self-discovery, and finding the strength to survive in the face of immeasurable loss. Nineteen-year-old Irma Voth lives in a Mennonite community in northern Mexico, surrounded by desert and both physically and culturally isolated from the surrounding towns and cities. Its been six years since her family up and left Canada to escape the prying eyes of the government and preserve their religious freedom, but Irma still misses the minor freedoms she had in their small town. She even misses the cold. This new life has not been an easy one, and Irma finds herself deserted by her husband of one year, who has left to pursue a life of drug-running, instead of working her familys farm. The most devastating blow for Irma is that he didnt take her with him, take her away, so now shes left to live under her fathers domineering rule alone. Things change for Irma when a film crew moves into the empty house next door. Theyve come to make a movie about the Mennonite community, and have made a deal with Irmas father to stay on their land. The director enlists Irma to work for them as a translator, as she can speak not only Spanish and English but Plattdeutsch, or Low German, the language of her people. At first bemused by the ragged and absurd crewmembers, Irma comes to embrace the passion and creative freedom of their world - but in doing so brings on the wrath of her father, who is determined to keep her from it at all costs. When Irmas 13-year-old sister Aggie begins to come by and spend time with the crew, their father is sent over the edge with rage, and Irma is forced to make a hard decision to save not only herself, but her younger sister, and to break the dark chain of violence holding her family. The girls flee to the capital, Mexico City, not knowing where theyll find food or shelter, let alone build a life, but knowing for the first time that they are free to make that choice. And even as they begin to understand the truth of the tragedy that has their family in its grip, Irma and Aggie use their love as a source of strength to help each other move on from their past lives and work toward a future that can truly become anything they want it to be.
©2011 Miriam Toews (P)2018 Vintage Canada
After her father took his own life in 1998, Miriam Toews decided to face her confusion and pain straight on. In writing her fathers memoir, she was motivated by two primary goals: For her own sake, she needed to understand, or at least accept, her fathers final decision. For her fathers sake, she needed to honour him, to elucidate his life, and to demonstrate its worth. Apart from its brief prologue and epilogue, Swing Low is written entirely from Mel Toewss perspective. Miriam Toews has her father tell his story from bed as he waits in a Steinbach hospital to be transferred to a psychiatric facility in Winnipeg. Mel turns to writing to make sense of his condition, to review his life in the hope of seeing it more clearly. He remembers himself as an anxious child, the son of a despondent father and an alcoholic mother, who never once made him feel loved. At 17 he was diagnosed with manic depression (now known as bipolar disorder). His psychiatrists predictions were grim: Mel shouldnt count on marrying, starting a family, or holding down a job. With great courage and determination, Mel went on to do all three: he married his childhood sweetheart, had two happy daughters and was a highly respected and beloved teacher for 40 years. Although Mel was able to keep his disorder hidden from the community, his family frequently witnessed his unraveling. Over the years this schism between his public and private life grew wider. An outgoing and tireless trailblazer at school, he often collapsed into silence and despair at home. Ironically, in trying to win his familys love through hard work and accomplishments, he deprived them of what they yearned for most: his presence, his voice. Once he retired from teaching - "the daily ritual of stepping outside himself" - Mel lost his creative outlet and, with it, his hope. In the Globe and Mail, author Moira Farr described Swing Low as "audacious, original and profoundly moving." She added: "Getting into the head of your own father - your own largely silent, mentally ill father, who killed himself - has to be a kind of literary high-wire act that few would dare to try.
Healing is a likely outcome of a book imbued with the righteous anger, compassion and humanity of Swing Low."
©2000 Miriam Toews (P)2018 Vintage Canada
Durante años, en la recóndita colonia menonita de Molotschna, decenas de mujeres han sido sistemáticamente drogadas y violadas mientras dormían. Despertaban doloridas y sangrando. La comunidad se empeñaba en mantener que todo era producto de su absurda imaginación, o quizá del demonio, que las castigaba por sus pecados. Los violadores, sin embargo, eran hombres de la propia colonia: tíos, hermanos o vecinos que finalmente acabaron en prisión pero que en apenas dos días serán liberados bajo fianza y regresarán a casa. Ocho de esas mujeres que padecieron abusos y violaciones están a punto de reunirse en secreto para tomar una decisión que determinará su futuro. ¿Qué deben hacer? ¿Perdonarlos, como pide el Pastor? ¿Responder a la violencia con más violencia? ¿O marcharse para siempre? Please note: This audiobook is in Castilian Spanish.
©2018, 2020 Miriam Toews/Editorial Sexto Piso, S. A. de C. V. (P)2021 Audible Studios