Ms. Toews has trouble controlling her world, and her narrative sometimes feels lost and muddied. Tense is sometimes mixed, making one wonder if this is the present or if Nomi is older now, looking back. Interesting threads in relationships and characters are picked up, dropped off quickly, and are never seen again, or are picked up much later and consequently seem less relevant. And if the high points seem inscrutable, the low points are painfully obvious. Some metaphors seeem juvenile, like Nomi's dream that Jesus is staring down at her from the foot of her bed with a baseball bat "poised to smash in [her] head for a lie [she] had told" leave one with a sense of regret at their inclusion. Nomi is endearing and interesting, but Ms. Toews over-writes her and won't leave a moment of subtle poignancy alone.
Toews employs literal repetitions to convey Nomi's frustration with her inability to escape her world. She rides her bike up a hill again and again before giving up and walking ;she and her father drive in circles in silence, pretending neither notices that the scenery is no longer new. These scenes cut straight to the point and expand emotionally upon the literal truth of being stuck in a world of repetition with no prospect for escape. But these sorts of sustained, reoccurring passages are easily lost in what become longer and longer stretches of predictable and facile sequences that gain the reader no new insights and no new developments.
Throughout the book, Nomi's search for an ending becomes a kind of leitmotif. Teachers and parents tell her that endings often find themselves once a story has begun and at a certain point there is little control the author has over their story's outcome. Would that were true, but the book's climax comes too little too late and the repercussions of it aren't dealt with to satisfaction.
Like many contemporary authors, Toews strives to imitate the styles of her pillard predeccessors. Salinger and Nabokov are...
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