While I enjoyed Miriam Toews' A Complicated Kindness while reading it, I seemed to have soured on
it somewhat as time passed. I recall finding her characters slightly too quirky to be believable. Since then I've encountered many more such characters in other books by other novelists and my tolerance for quirky has gone way down. I know it's not fair to say that Miriam Toews started it all, but it's hard to shake the feeling.
So, I wasn't overly eager to take on All My Puny Sorrows.
Wow, I'm glad I did. Her characters are still left of normal, but toned down just enough to be believable. Very believable. In fact, and I'm almost hesitant to say it around people that have read the book, I found the character of Elf (the protagonist's suicidal sister) a lot like me. And no, this is not a cry for help.
Exploring themes of assisted suicide, depression, familial bonds, and more heavy topics, there was a real threat that All My Puny Sorrows would be so much of a downer as to be unreadable. Fortunately the likeability of the characters and Toews' wry wit (though not "hilarious" as an asinine Toronto Star review referred to it), kept the pages turning.