A Complicated Kindness
In the book “A Complicated Kindness” by Miriam Toews, the protagonist is a teenage girl named Nomi. Nomi is growing up trapped in a small Mennonite community called East Village in the middle of nowhere, in Canada. All her life Nomi was told what to believe, with heavy emphasis on the belief that living dutifully and by the word of God in this life would guarantee salvation in the next. In Nomi’s town, “you’re good or you’re bad” (pg. 10). There was no in between, no room for individuality or mistakes. Those who went through their life there quietly, going to church every Sunday and working at the local chicken slaughtering plant after graduation, were considered to be on their way up. These people were the ones who, at the end of their long journey, will meet the Lord and live forever in His kingdom of glory, but those who rebelled against the belief were going straight to hell.
As Nomi’s older sister Natasha begins to question their faith, Nomi lives in perpetual terror that her sister is going to hell. Their father is a strong believer; the church is what glues his soul together. And although their mother grew up in the community, she had always been an independent thinker, and could not watch her oldest daughter suffer for a lifetime in a place she hated, following a religion she could no longer identify with. After Nomi’s mother and Natasha leave East Village, Nomi is faced with living in a broken family, and begins to question her faith as well. While trying to avoid the sad existence that seems inevitable if she stays in the community, Nomi dreams of a life in the real world, but can’t seem to get up the courage it will take to leave. Nomi explores the world of drugs and rebellion to escape because she is tired of being trapped in East Village.
The narrative, which is from Nomi’s perspective, jumps frequently from the past to the present. It creates a whirlwind feeling that inflicts the emotions of the characters on an unguarded...