All My Puny Sorrows is my top pick for fiction this year, because it has everything I believe a good book should have. It has wit, darkness, love. It has plot, yes, but one that doesn't overwhelm the importance of character development. It has dialogue written so excellently I felt I might've been eavesdropping instead of reading. Most of all, it is written in a way that reads as utterly un-self-conscious: AMPS is a bravely written book, one that is comfortable with its own sense of humor as well as comfortable being seated deeply in grief.
It follows Elf and Yoli, two sisters who grew up together in a small Mennonite community. As adults, Elf lives a truly enviable life: she is a reknowned pianist with a wonderful husband, and she possesses a worldiness that from the start set her apart from her humble beginnings. Yoli meanwhile blunders along through divorces, empty bank accounts, and writer's block. Despite their differences, they remain always close. When Elf attempts to end her life, however, the sisters are drawn into an all-too-real conversation over life and death: How do you let go of the ones you love?
I felt the way about this book as I used to feel about most books when I was a child, yet so rarely do now--I was enrapt while I read it, and I was distraught when it was done. This is an exquisite book, one that will sit in the lobby of your heart for some time.
A New York Times 2015 Holiday Gift Guide selection. Elf and Yoli are sisters. While on the surface Elfrieda's is an enviable life (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 own 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. All My Puny Sorrows is the latest novel from Miriam Toews, one of Canada's most beloved authors not only because her work is rich with deep human feeling and compassion, but because her observations are knife-sharp and her books wickedly funny. And this is Toews at her finest: a story that is as much comedy as it is tragedy, a goodbye grin from the friend who taught you how to live.
About the Author
Miriam Toews is the author of five previous novels: Summer of My Amazing Luck, A Boy of Good Breeding, A Complicated Kindness, The Flying Troutmans, and Irma Voth, and one work of nonfiction, Swing Low: A Life. She lives in Toronto.