41 pages 1 hour read

Miriam Toews

A Complicated Kindness

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 2004

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Chapters 1-7

Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Chapter 1 Summary

The novel begins with Naomi “Nomi” Nickel explaining her circumstances: she lives with her father, Ray Nickel, in a small Mennonite town called East Village. Nomi has been struggling to finish high school after the departure of her sister Tash and, several weeks later, her mother, Trudie. It will be revealed over the course of the novel that Tash left for New York with a boyfriend, Ian, and Tricia was excommunicated by her brother, Hans “The Mouth” Rosenfeldt, for having an affair with Mr. Quiring, Nomi’s English teacher, though Nomi likes to create her own hopeful version of the events.

Nomi is convinced that her future will be in the chicken processing plant where many Mennonite people work; she and Ray won’t leave town because they are waiting for Tash and Trudie to return. The Mennonite community that Nomi belongs to is a deeply conservative sect of Christianity that Nomi finds embarrassing and that her mother had difficulty with.

Nomi paints a picture of her mother as someone who has a rich inner life and was repressed by the community: “There was something seething away inside of her, something fierce and unpredictable, like a saw in a birthday cake” (9).