Miriam Toews' not so puny sorrows


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Watch the Q interview above and listen to the Metro Morning interview below!


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"What do I want most in life? Death."

That line is from Miriam Toews' new novel, All My Puny Sorrows. The book revolves around two sisters: Elfreida, a concert pianist who more than anything else, wants to kill herself, and her sister Yolandi, who tries desperately to keep her alive. It's a situation Toews is intimately familiar with: her own sister Marjorie asked Miriam to help her commit suicide. While Miriam contemplated the request, in the end, Marjorie killed herself unassisted on June 5, 2010.

"Every time I write a book, I have certain questions. I am processing certain experiences that I've had in my life. There's always a question a burning question at the heart of every book that I write," Toews told Metro Morning host Matt Galloway in a recent interview. And in All My Puny Sorrows, that question is this: "What is Yoli going to do? What is her obligation?"

That was exactly what Toews struggled with when her sister asked for help to commit suicide. "Here is person that I love dearly and I want her to stay alive," Toews said. "My first immediate impulse was to say 'Of course not. That's ridiculous. That's preposterous. No.'" But this stance began to shift when Toews started thinking about what her sister was going through and what her help would mean to Marjorie. "When you are face to face with that person who is suffering so much agony, so profoundly, you begin to think about what that question means and what your responsibility is and what her rights as a human being are."

Despite these challenging questions, Toews hopes readers can find joy in her novel. "It's also a story about women in middle age and everything that they experience -- love and sex and divorce and children and relationships." Toews wanted to "make sense of things that have happened to me and have happened in my life," but she also wanted to "create some great scenes, something that is funny, something that is moving."