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Fiction Literary

All My Puny Sorrows

by (author) Miriam Toews

Knopf Canada
Initial publish date
Apr 2014
Literary, Amish & Mennonite, Contemporary Women
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Apr 2018
    List Price
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Apr 2014
    List Price
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Feb 2015
    List Price

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SHORTLISTED 2014 – Scotiabank Giller Prize
Miriam Toews is beloved for her irresistible voice, for mingling laughter and heartwrenching poignancy like no other writer. In her most passionate novel yet, she brings us the riveting story of two sisters, and a love that illuminates life.
You won’t forget Elf and Yoli, two smart and loving sisters. Elfrieda, a world-renowned pianist, glamorous, wealthy, happily married: she wants to die. Yolandi, divorced, broke, sleeping with the wrong men as she tries to find true love: she desperately wants to keep her older sister alive. Yoli is a beguiling mess, wickedly funny even as she stumbles through life struggling to keep her teenage kids and mother happy, her exes from hating her, her sister from killing herself and her own heart from breaking.
But Elf’s latest suicide attempt is a shock: she is three weeks away from the opening of her highly anticipated international tour. Her long-time agent has been calling and neither Yoli nor Elf’s loving husband knows what to tell him. Can she be nursed back to “health” in time? Does it matter? As the situation becomes ever more complicated, Yoli faces the most terrifying decision of her life.
All My Puny Sorrows, at once tender and unquiet, offers a profound reflection on the limits of love, and the sometimes unimaginable challenges we experience when childhood becomes a new country of adult commitments and responsibilities. In her beautifully rendered new novel, Miriam Toews gives us a startling demonstration of how to carry on with hope and love and the business of living even when grief loads the heart.

About the author

Miriam Toews is the author of two previous award-winning novels, Summer of My Amazing Luck and A Boy of Good Breeding, as well as the memoir Swing Low: A Life. She contributes frequently to CBC Radio, National Public Radio, and the New York Times Magazine, and has received a gold medal in the National Magazine Awards for humour.

Miriam Toews' profile page


  • Winner, Canadian Authors Association Literary Award
  • Short-listed, Folio Fiction/Poetry Awards
  • Short-listed, Wellcome Trust Book Prize
  • Winner, Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize
  • Short-listed, Scotiabank Giller Prize

Editorial Reviews

WINNER 2014 – Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize
SHORLISTED 2014 Giller Prize
FINALIST 2015 – The Folio Prize
LONGLISTED 2015 – International DUBLIN Literary Award 
"Brilliant.... Delicate braids of sadness and humour. Her most accomplished novel yet."
The Globe and Mail 

"Poignant, heartbreaking, yet suffused with wit.... A stellar achievement.... A superb offering from a writer of rare originality and undisputed talent."
—The London Free Press 

"Powerful and ultimately uplifting."
Ottawa Citizen 

"Her fans will not be disappointed."
Waterloo Region Record

User Reviews

What it Means to be Family

I'm purposely being vague however, this review may contain what some would consider SPOILERS. There are a lot of reviews of this book so I won't say too much and just narrow in on my main points. I enjoyed the read, Toews is an excellent writer and her characters are always wonderful. I think I'll always enjoy any book she writes. This family, with all its extended aunts and cousins, etc, is so strong when it comes together to be a family to endure the sorrows together and I loved them as an example of family. What the (western) world has so much grown away from and lost. I loved Lottie and Yoli, such women full of fortitude, even though Yoli would have us believe she was full of weakness. Elf, the sister described as not wanting to live, I didn't like. We never got inside her head and I understand the point of that. But we were also not told what her problem was, psychiatrically, what was her diagnosis. She refused meds and I became frustrated with the author for not, at least, giving us the information the family would have. Thus, the reader guesses what is wrong with her and I really did not like her at all when she forces her sister, who is against it, to realistically investigate euthanasia on her behalf. The first death was a beautiful one and showed how a well-lived life can end and how those left behind gather strength from it. In the end, I didn't find the book sad at all. I'm glad the book ended the way it did.

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