41 pages 1 hour read

Miriam Toews

A Complicated Kindness

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 2004

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Important Quotes

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“I’ve got a problem with endings. Mr. Quiring has told me that essays and stories generally come, organically, to a preordained ending that is quite out of the writer’s control. He says we’ll know it when it happens, the ending. I don’t know about that. I feel that there are so many to choose from.”

(Chapter 1, Page 1)

This quote neatly lays out Nomi’s central dilemma in the novel: she does not know how to grapple with the fact that her family as she knew it is gone, so she is lingering in East Village with no plans after high school in order to hold on to the past. Ironically, Mr. Quiring’s advice belies the fact that he brought about the ending of her family through his blackmail of Nomi’s mother—the ending that Nomi is experiencing is not preordained at all but the direct result of Quiring’s action.

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“We’re Mennonites. As far as I know, we are the most embarrassing sub-sect of people to belong to if you’re a teenager.”

(Chapter 1, Page 5)

Nomi’s faith is deeply conservative and repressive, and the teenagers in the town tend to either be ardent believers or act out through drug and alcohol abuse. Nomi grew up the former, but after the disappearance of her mother and sister, she has lost her faith. She feels that her conservative upbringing has left her unprepared for the wider world and very, very uncool.

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“Why was Tash so intent on derailing our chances and sabotaging our plans to be together for goddamn ever and why the hell couldn’t my parents see what was happening and rein that girl in? We were supposed to stay together, it was clear to me. That was the function, the ultimate purpose, the entire premise for the existence of the Nickel family.”

(Chapter 2, Page 17)

As a younger teen, Nomi’s faith was unwavering, and she saw Tash’s move toward atheism as a betrayal. Now that she is headed toward that philosophy, she is left puzzling over why she was so angry with her sister and whether she has any blame for her leaving.