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 ne'er-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 woman's quest to discover all that she may become in the unexpectedly rich and confounding world that lies beyond the stifling, observant community she knows.
Toews writes honestly and with humour, and her balanced style makes her work accessible to readers. We are given a beautiful literary story that becomes much more real with Toews's interjections of observational wit. Her narrative never seems forced, and it feels as though you are listening to a friend relay a tale. (Reviewed by Jennifer Dawson Oakes).
[T]he wryly funny title character keeps the story poignant.
The New York Times Book Review
[E]ndearingly odd and affecting… [Toews] writes with an instinctive grasp of the adolescent point of view…
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.
Toews… combines an intimate coming-of-age tale with picaresque and extremely effective prose.
A strong and skillful novel… a parable of redemption, a powerful theme… that leaves the reader with a comforting glow of hope.
Times Literary Supplement (UK)
Miriam Toews has a remarkably light touch. She combines a playfully sardonic humour with crushing pathos...
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.
Menno Simons was an Anabaptist religious leader born in 1496 in Witmarsen (the Netherlands). Although he was not the founder of this branch of religion, he was a very important figure in the organizing of the Dutch Mennonite church, and his followers became known as Mennonites.
According to the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia, Simons was ordained as a Roman Catholic priest at Utrecht in 1524, but quickly began to question some of the church's beliefs and practices when, "while he was administering the Mass he began to doubt whether the bread and the wine were actually being changed into the flesh and blood of Christ." Consequently, he began a serious study of the scriptures along with works by humanist, Desiderious Erasmus and Protestant leader, Martin Luther.
In the early 1530s, Simons came in contact with Anabaptist teachings. The word "Anabaptist" means "one who baptizes over again" and...
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