Irma Voth

Irma Voth

Book - 2011
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From the award-winning author of A Complicated Kindness comes a heart-wrenching yet wryly funny story about setting out on the road to self-discovery, and finding the strength to survive in the face of immeasurable loss.

Nineteen-year-old Irma Voth lives in a Mennonite community in northern Mexico, surrounded by desert and both physically and culturally isolated from the surrounding towns and cities. It's been six years since her family up and left Canada to escape the prying eyes of the government and preserve their religious freedom, but Irma still misses the minor freedoms she had in their small town. She even misses the cold. This new life has not been an easy one, and Irma finds herself deserted by her husband of one year, who has left to pursue a life of drug-running, instead of working her family's farm. The most devastating blow for Irma is that he didn't take her with him, take her away, so now she's left to live under her father's domineering rule alone.

Things change for Irma when a film crew moves into the empty house next door. They've come to make a movie about the Mennonite community, and have made a deal with Irma's father to stay on their land. The director enlists Irma to work for them as a translator, as she can speak not only Spanish and English but Plattdeutsch, or Low German, the language of her people. At first bemused by the ragged and absurd crewmembers, Irma comes to embrace the passion and creative freedom of their world - but in doing so brings on the wrath of her father, who is determined to keep her from it at all costs. When Irma's thirteen-year-old sister Aggie begins to come by and spend time with the crew, their father is sent over the edge with rage, and Irma is forced to make a hard decision to save not only herself, but her younger sister, and to break the dark chain of violence holding her family.

The girls flee to the city, not knowing where they'll find food or shelter, let alone build a life, but knowing for the first time that they are free to make that choice. And even as they begin to understand the truth of the tragedy that has their family in its grip, Irma and Aggie use their love as a source of strength to help each other move on from their past lives and work toward a future that can truly become anything they want it to be.

Publisher: Toronto : Alfred A. Knopf Canada, c2011
ISBN: 9780307400680
Branch Call Number: TOE
Characteristics: 255 p. ;,22 cm


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Dec 21, 2013

As far as books by Miriam Toews go, this was definitely not my favorite. I was not a fan of the writing style, nor was I a fan of the characters. Regardless of all that, this author can tell a story. She may be one of the best story tellers of our time; once again she was able to put herself inside the head of the protagonist girl and really make you feel like she was being true to her heritage.

Jun 25, 2013

There's something very beautiful about this book. It's quiet and at times surreal, and often very sad. It did remind me of Toews' first novel, A Complicated Kindness, which is by no means a bad thing. I recommend it.

Jun 17, 2013

Didn't enjoy this novel at all. Struggled to get half way thru it and finally gave up.

Jun 03, 2013

Toews writes with humour about young Mennonite women escaping the patriarchy of their famililes and religion, but the book is a variation on earlier novels. I would like this gifted writer to turn to other themes.

Jan 21, 2013

It took a few pages to get into the writing style, but after that I was totally absorbed in this story. It's beautifully written and one of the most satisfying books I've ever read. Outstanding.

There is nothing humorous in this story, it goes from human tragedy to tragedy and still Irma struggles to make a life for herself in the face of grim parenting and a surreal culture in rural Mexico. Irma bears the burden of her mandate to always tell the truth. She blames herself for the crimes of her father, the cowardice of her mother, the unrestrained rebellion of her oldest sister and the emotional neglect of her errant husband. Irma believes she is the fulcrum of bad behaviour in her family and her community. The most poignant vignette for me took place when a love starved Irma went to confession in a Catholic church in the hope of hearing the priest call her ‘my daughter’. Towes does not reward the reader with closure after we have waded through all that sadness. A well written story but grim reading for the sensitive or optimistic reader.

pomtree Oct 25, 2012

This is an astounding book. It tells the story in the first person of a young woman who flees her Mennonite family in Mexico along with her two younger sisters to escape her father's rage. As the story unfolds, you learn of the ways that her actions have led to tragedy and her struggle to come to terms with forgiveness. The writing is sparse and unembellished but it is so true, so painfully, searingly honest that it can leave you breathless.

Nov 03, 2011

A wonderful book about a mennonite woman whose father is patriarchal in the extreme. They live in a mennonite colony in Mexico. Irma varries jorge in the drug trade, they live in the father's other house and take care of the chickens for him. Jorge leaves and a film company comes to the place to make a movie and Irma's life changes dramatically. She is a strong character. naive but smart and loving. Her sister has long ago left and Irma discovers what has happened y her which is the dramatic ending. Tear inducing and suspensful.

goldie1234 Sep 29, 2011

Great book- A graet follow up to A complicated Kindness

Aug 13, 2011

Easily the quirkiest novel I have ever read. After Tom Stoppard's offerings of course.

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