All My Puny Stories – Miriam Toews

all-my-puny-stories-miriam-toewsThis is a book about suicide and so it is hard to be perfectly objective but – this is her best book since A Complicated Kindness. Some back story: Toews wrote Swing Low, a non-fiction account of the suicidal death of her father. In AMPS (words taken from a Coleridge poem), the story is fiction but heavily influenced by the suicidal death of Toews’ sister in 2010.

Now for the comments: this is a heart-breaking story, that captures perfectly the inherent conflict between two sisters who love each other, but conflict because one  wants to die and the other who wants her sister to live. The inevitability of the progression to the suicide is frightening, despite great efforts by many individuals in addition to the sisters. And finally, the picture of the psych staff is unflattering: indifference and ineffectiveness. Save up your energy for this but it is brilliant writing.

The Weird Sisters – Eleanor Brown

the-weird-sisters-eleanor-brownThis is a magnificent story about 3 sisters reunited in Ohio because of a parental health issue. The book is dominated by Shakespearean quotes and references: the names of the 3 sisters are Rosalind (Rose), Bianca (Bean) and Cordelia (Cordy). The story is about sister relationships and all three are fuck-ups in their own unique fashion. And may I mention that everyone loves to read in this story. Finally, the book is written in an interesting collective voice of all thee sisters (We …). This is a must-read book.

Falling Angels by Barbara Gowdy

falling-angels-by-barbara-gowdyAnother dysfunctional family book with abusive father, an alcoholic mother who dropped/threw a child into Niagara Falls (postpartum depression?) and three sisters who are the focus (how children cope). There is a chapter entitled Disneyland which is superb black humour; the next chapter is heartbreaking. Gowdy also wrote Fearless about a 9 year old girl who is abducted; the abductor is delusional and obsessed but amazingly becomes somewhat sympathetic because he tries to suppress his pedophilic tendencies. Both these books are tough reads but excellent.