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Synopsis

Sixteen-year-old Nomi Nickel longs to hang out with Lou Reed and Marianne Faithfull in New York City’s East Village. Instead she’s trapped in East Village, Manitoba, a small town whose population is Mennonite: “the most embarrassing sub-sect of people to belong to if you’re a teenager.” East Village is a town with no train and no bar whose job prospects consist of slaughtering chickens at the Happy Family Farms abattoir or churning butter for tourists at the pioneer village. Ministered with an iron fist by Nomi’s uncle Hans, a.k.a. The Mouth of Darkness, East Village is a town that’s tall on rules and short on fun: no dancing, drinking, rock ’n’ roll, recreational sex, swimming, make-up, jewellery, playing pool, going to cities or staying up past nine o’clock.

As the novel begins, Nomi struggles to cope with the back-to-back departures three years earlier of Tash, her beautiful and mouthy sister, and Trudie, her warm and spirited mother. She lives with her father, Ray, a sweet yet hapless schoolteacher whose love is unconditional but whose parenting skills amount to benign neglect. Father and daughter deal with their losses in very different ways. Ray, a committed elder of the church, seeks to create an artificial sense of order by reorganizing the city dump late at night. Nomi favours chaos as she tries to blunt her pain through “drugs and imagination.” Together they live in a limbo of unanswered questions.

Nomi’s first person narrative shifts effortlessly between the present and the past. Throughout, in a voice both defiant and vulnerable, she offers hilarious and heartbreaking reflections on life, death, family, faith and love.

Winner of the Governor General’s Literary Award and a Giller Prize finalist, A Complicated Kindness earned both critical acclaim and a long and steady position on our national bestseller lists.

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A Complicated Kindness
Average rating
3.9 / 5
Awful
November 18th, 2014
Painful to read
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1 review
A complicated kindness
July 23rd, 2014
I couldn't finish this book. I found it very dull, dry, boring.
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1 review
Can't say I loved it.
April 19th, 2014
The characterization is very good,but the story didn't wholly engage me. It is a story of being brought up Mennonite, but not connecting or belonging, and the pain of loss and apathy. A story with so much hope and so much sadness in the character. I actually loved the ending,so I'm glad I stuck through it when at times I near abandoned it. But I did like the protagonist Nomi and wanted to see where her journey ended.
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1 review
1 person found this helpful
March 16th, 2014
Highly recommend this book. Story is full of complexity but also realistically depicts the moods and actions of a strong willed teenager as she faces the reality of her life. Both funny and very sad. Love the style the author used in telling Nomi's story.
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1 review
1 person found this helpful
January 24th, 2014
This is a comedic but heartbreaking journey into the life of the Mennonites in Manitoba. The author takes us along with Nomi, a teenage girl, as she faces the challenges of adolescence in the Mennonite community while her family, and furniture, disappear. This story is told in such a unique way that it keeps you turning the pages. It is a dark story, but is told in such a way that the struggles and relationships seem trivial and funny. Very unique and enjoyable. :)
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1 review
A Complicated Kindness
December 27th, 2013
It took me a while to want to stay with the book. I was glad I did. The characters came to life and each took on a unique identity that brought on emotion and empathy. Well done!
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1 review

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