By Miriam Toews
(Harper, Hardcover, 9780062070180, 272pp.)
Publication Date: September 2011
That rare coming-of-age story able to blend the dark with the uplifting, Irma Voth follows a young Mennonite woman, vulnerable yet wise beyond her years, who carries a terrible family secret with her on a remarkable journey to survival and redemption.
Nineteen-year-old Irma lives in a rural Mennonite community in Mexico. She has already been cast out of her family for marrying a young Mexican neer-do-well she barely knows, although she remains close to her rebellious younger sister and yearns for the lost intimacy with her mother. With a husband who proves elusive and often absent, a punishing father, and a faith in God damaged beyond repair, Irma appears trapped in an untenable and desperate situation. When a celebrated Mexican filmmaker and his crew arrive from Mexico City to make a movie about the insular community in which she was raised, Irma is immediately drawn to the outsiders and is soon hired as a translator on the set. But her father, intractable and domineering, is determined to destroy the film and get rid of the interlopers. His action sets Irma on an irrevocable path toward something that feels like freedom.
A novel of great humanity, written with dry wit, edgy humor, and emotional poignancy, Irma Voth is the powerful story of a young womans quest to discover all that she may become in the unexpectedly rich and confounding world that lies beyond the stifling, observant community she knows.
Miriam Toews was born in the small Mennonite town of Steinbach, Manitoba. She has published five novels and a memoir of her father, and is the recipient of numerous literary awards in Canada, including the Governor Generals Literary Award (for A Complicated Kindness) and the Rogers Writers Trust Fiction Prize (for The Flying Troutmans). In 2010 she received the prestigious Writers Trust Engel/Findley Award for her body of work. Irma Voth is Toewss most recent novel. She lives in Toronto.
“The wryly funny title character keeps the story poignant.”
“A strong and skillful novel . . . a parable of redemption, a powerful theme . . . that leaves the reader with a comforting glow of hope.”
-Annie Proulx, Financial Times
“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.”
“Toews . . . combines an intimate coming-of-age tale with picaresque and extremely effective prose.”
“Miriam Toews has a remarkably light touch. She combines a playfully sardonic humour with crushing pathos.”
-Times Literary Supplement (London)
“Simultaneously poignant and humorous . . . perfectly captures this young woman’s attempt to find her niche in a world so different from that in which she was raised . . . Toews’s unique voice shines.”
“A literary novel marked by charm, wit and an original approach to language.”
“ . . . endearingly odd and affecting . . . [Toews] writes with an instinctive grasp of the adolescent point of view.”
-Maria Russo, New York Times Book Review
“A witty and thoughtful coming-of-age story. . . . A novel about parenthood and sisterhood, and about redefining those relationships as people grow . . . it succeeds tremendously.”
-The Washington Independent Review of Books