Manitoba author Miriam Toews launches new novel

Miriam Toews new book is about two sisters and how one struggles to keep the other alive. It's something Toews understands after losing her sister to suicide four years ago.
Miriam Toews's All My Puny Sorrows was a Scotiabank Giller Prize finalist in 2014. (Carol Loewen)
I use my life for my art and I hope that is a useful thing, not just for me but for others as well.- Miriam Toews

Manitoba author Miriam Toews is returning to Winnipeg to launch her latest book called All My Puny Sorrows.

The book is the story of two sisters, Elfrieda and YolandiElf is the older sister and a world renowned pianist with an outwardly glamourous life, but her struggle with mental illness and depression leads her to attempt suicide several times.

The younger sister Yoli is divorced, a writer and struggles to keep her sister alive. In real life, Toews' older sister, also an accomplished pianist, took her own life four years ago. 

All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews (Knopf Canada)
It's this raw material that Toews draws from for All My Puny Sorrows. Toews says she's always written books that have a deep personal connection to her own life.

"For me it's a way of creating order from chaos. It's a way to control, to take experiences and make sense of them, a way of working through certain obsessions of mine," she explained.

"It's just the way I write. I use my life for my art and I hope that is a useful thing, not just for me but for others as well."

Toews' father also killed himself.

"Because of my family's history I need to appreciate my own ability to experience joy, by living for my father and for my sister, and understanding that they just couldn't go on," she said. "They had been fighting depression and mental illness for so long....I want to do right by my father and my sister."

Toews says that it's always bittersweet for her to return to Winnipeg.

"I love Winnipeg. It's my hometown. It's where my heart is. I always feel so supported here, but it's difficult because of the memories, the feelings. A lot of things come back to me."

Miriam Toews launches her new book All My Puny Sorrows on Wednesday April 16, 7 p.m. at McNally Robinson Books. Hear her on Information Radio with host Marcy Markusa on Tuesday April 15.