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list price: $21.00
edition:Paperback
also available: Paperback Hardcover
category: Fiction
published: Apr 2018
ISBN:9780735274600
publisher: Knopf Canada
imprint: Vintage Canada

Irma Voth

by Miriam Toews

reviews: 1
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literary, family life, contemporary women
0 of 5
0 ratings
rated!
rated!
list price: $21.00
edition:Paperback
also available: Paperback Hardcover
category: Fiction
published: Apr 2018
ISBN:9780735274600
publisher: Knopf Canada
imprint: Vintage Canada
Description

Miriam Toews is a master storyteller at the height of her powers, who manages with trademark wry wit and a fierce tenderness to be at once heartbreaking and laugh-out-loud funny in Irma Voth. Now in a stunning new package.
     Banished to a neighbouring farm for the sin of marrying a non-Mennonite Mexican, Irma Voth lives apart from the other Mennonites in her colony. Her new husband soon abandons her, and her only reprieve from isolation comes from the occasional secret visits of her younger sister Aggie and the little gifts sent by her mother. But change comes when a film crew from Mexico City moves into the empty house next to Irma's to make a film about Mennonites. Irma is hired on as translator and cook, and her involvement with the bohemian film crew sets her on a path that will push her into dangerous conflict with her strict, religious father, and out into the unfamiliar, exotic world of the big city.
     Brimming with Toews's dazzling wit, Irma Voth tells the story of a young woman's turbulent journey towards self-discovery. It's a book that will grab you from the first page, and won't let go even after the last.

Contributor Notes

 MIRIAM TOEWS is the author of five other bestselling novels: Summer of My Amazing LuckA Boy of Good Breeding, A Complicated Kindness (Canada Reads 2006, Canada Reads Canadian Bestseller of the Decade 2010), The Flying TroutmansAll My Puny Sorrows (finalist for the Giller Prize and winner of the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize), and one work of non-fiction, Swing Low: A Life. She is a winner of the Governor General's Literary Award for Fiction, the Libris Award for Fiction Book of the Year, the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize, and the Writers' Trust Marian Engel/Timothy Findley Award. She lives in Toronto.

Editorial Review

“Toews . . . is clearly an artistic powerhouse. . . .  In this compelling and beautiful novel, Toews’s quirky and authentic voice shows increasing range and maturity. She is well on her way to fulfilling her promise as an important and serious writer.”
The Gazette

“There is something quite mesmerizing about Toews’s prose. It’s to do with the rhythm of her language, with the seeming effortlessness of it and, when combined with her quick, offhand wit, it can enliven even the darkest of moments.”
— Toronto Star
 
“Toews’s ability to generate comedy and heartache at the same time just soars.”
— Maclean’s
 
Irma Voth is wryly funny and perceptive.”
— National Post
 
“It is beautiful, strange, and fascinating, and readers wise enough to trust in the author’s sure hand will be rewarded with a novel that takes them someplace altogether unexpected.”
— Kerry Clare, Quill & Quire
 
“A beautiful, heartbreaking novel. . . . Calls to mind Ann-Marie MacDonald’s 1996 epic, Fall On Your Knees.”
— Winnipeg Free Press
 
“A stunning culture clash between the Mennonite and art communities. . . . The internal conflict over when to reveal hard information, in life or in art, is one of Toews’s key themes. A sequence about how it feels to tell the truth is a knockout.”
— NOW (Toronto) NNNN

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Reader Reviews

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It's like a folk painting, in novel form

http://cozylittlebookjournal.blogspot.ca/2011/08/irma-voth-by-miriam-toews.html

The writing reminds me of a folk-art painting--rough, approximate, honest, vibrant. The author uses little punctuation and no quotation marks. There is little to distract from the characters themselves. It's like watching a slightly bleak independent film in which the characters talk about milking the cows in one moment and reveal their deepest fear in the next, with no explanation of the connection between the two. But then, life doesn't offer articulate explanations or philosophical inner monologues. In real life you figure things out by piecing together events and actions. You learn a person by what they do and say, not by the expository sentences of a hidden narrator.

The book has a meta-reality within it as well, since part of the plot is that there actually is an independent film crew making a movie about the characters, one that is meant to reveal their inner life by observation of everyday things. In the movie a Mennonite woman and her husband drive in a truck, go swimming, talk about making food--but they're really revealing their own sadness and melancholy. In the book, a Mennonite woman (the titular Irma Voth) helps on the film, cares for her sister, tends to farm animals--but her inner life is likewise revealed.

At one point the director of the film says he chose Mennonites because their drab clothing and obscure dialect makes them unrelatable to his audience so that he can use them as "pawns" or blank canvases to tell the story he wants to tell about human relationships. The parallel is that the author is doing the same thing with her characters. The intention isn't that the reader will learn a lot about Mennonites or Mexico or film making, but that the reader will be left with a portrait of humanity--of love, family, sacrifice, melancholy, sadness and hope.

For more reviews, please visit my blog, CozyLittleBookJournal.

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