41 pages 1 hour read

Miriam Toews

A Complicated Kindness

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 2004

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Character Analysis

Nomi Nickel

Nomi Nickel begins the novel at a critical inflection point: She struggles to understand the disappearance of her mother Trudie and her sister Tash (the former excommunicated for an affair and the latter departing because she decided she could not live in the community), and she struggles to see a future for herself in East Village or as a Mennonite despite it being the only thing she has known. Her Mennonite faith has been shattered by the way the church treated Trudie and Tash and Nomi’s overheard acknowledgment from Trudie that the Mennonite faith is a lie. Nomi has spent the last three years of her adolescence in the care of her father Ray, a stoic and untalkative man to whom she is fiercely loyal.

Nomi goes on a meandering journey through her last year of high school. She decides to lose her virginity to Travis, a boyfriend who is a compromise between Nomi’s romantic notion and the patriarchal society she is trapped in, and she engages in reckless behavior with drugs and alcohol while struggling to care about graduation. Most of her external troubles are rooted in an internal conundrum: she has a strong desire to fit into a community that she knows would reject her if it knew who she truly was, and she careens toward her own excommunication as a result.