All My Puny Sorrows

Reading Time: 2 minutes

By: Chase Knudsen-Staff Writer

“It was the first time that we had sort of articulated our major problem. She wanted to die, and I wanted her to live, and we were enemies who loved each other.”– Yolandi

All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews is so powerful, raw, hilarious and real. Readers might say this novel takes depression within the home to a strong and emotional level. It is the story of two middle-aged sisters, Yolandi (Yoli) and Elfrieda (Elf), who bring to the surface their struggle to align their world view; ones sees life, while the other sees death. Both women lost their father at a young age. The reader may discover in this story are the aspects of uglier truths that these sisters face daily. Which contributes to the humanistic feelings of anguish that some feel throughout their lives.

Elf is a prodigy in the world of classical music. She constantly feels stress over trying to reach perfection in the most realistic terms of human existence. This is the only life that she lives: never discovering who she is or can be outside of music.

It is only a matter of time before her limit is reached; she will implode or explode. Yoli is the one who’ s been lurking in the dark corners of her sister’ s shadow. This carries a constant reminder that a dark world does exist, yet, Yoli is the one who is invigorated to be alive. Miriam Toews brings a unique hilarity to mental health issues. Depression is out there, and this book is the one to really explore it in such beautifully written prose. This is a mental illness where most readers know someone who suffers from it, or suffer from it themselves.

David Foster Wallace, known for his magnum opus Infinite Jest, as well as succumbing to depression in September, 2008, said this of depression, “A person who tries to kill herself doesn’t do so out of quote ‘ hopelessness’ , or do so out of any abstract conviction that life’ s assets and debits do not square. The person in whom agony reaches a certain unendurable level will kill themselves the same way a trapped person will eventually jump from the window of a burning high-rise. It’ s not the desiring the fall; it’ s the terror of the flames.”

All My Puny Sorrows is very dark and at some points some may just want to cry; other parts will make readers laugh until they cry. Miriam Toews is a Canadian author that cannot be reckoned with. This book has her emotions intertwined throughout its pages in the most surreal way. Part memoir, part fiction. She has lived life with depression surrounding her and her family.Stephen Hawking said, “black holes aren’ t as black as they are painted.”

They are not the eternal prisons they were once thought. Things can get out of a black hole both on the outside and possibly to another universe.” At times, one may seem they are entrapped in a place so dark, that there is no hope. Hawking continues, “So, if you feel you are in a black hole, don’t give up –there’s a way out.”
College can be overwhelming and hard at times (especially as the semester unfolds). So, kick back, relax and open a book for an hour. Life will thank you.