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On suicide that runs in families, Mennonites and a review of AMPS
#1

On suicide that runs in families, Mennonites and a review of AMPS
So I just finished the Canadian author Miriam Toews' novel that came out in 2014, All My Puny Sorrows.  I wonder if anyone else has read it.  Not the most amazing novel of all time but a more satisfactory look at suicide than The Bell Jar by Sylvia Path which I read last year.  Unlike Plath who goes on to kill herself in real life, Miriam Toews seems to have a good grip on life even as the sister and daughter of suicides.  I probably laughed more than I got misty.  Nothing like a death to bring out the yucks.  But funnily enough my first impulse upon finishing the book and learning from the acknowledgements at the end that the author had a sister like the reviewer quoted below, I too went to google to find out how far the similarities went.  Quite far as it turns out.  So rather than rattle on about the book I'll just quote from that review which comes from the Chicago  Tribune.  I especially like that final sentence:  "where the usefulness of information ends, the usefulness of the novel begins".  



"It was late at night when I finished "All My Puny Sorrows," the heartbreaking, valiant, very funny new novel by Miriam Toews. Everyone was asleep. I slipped out of bed and went into the darkened living room, turned on my computer, and started to look online for the names in the book's acknowledgments.

It didn't take long. "All My Puny Sorrows" is about a writer from a Mennonite community near Winnipeg. Her name is Yolandi, and her beloved sister, Elfrieda, wants to commit suicide. Well, Toews had a sister, Marjorie Anne, and they too grew up in a Mennonite community, and now Marjorie Anne is dead, a suicide; like their father, and the father in the book, she let a train kill her.

For a half-hour I investigated Toews' family, with all that sense of entitlement to other people's lives that characterizes our age. I experienced the author's grief secondhand, after having read her description of it firsthand. Finally I shut my computer again, feeling half-guilty. The purity of the experience of reading the book had dissipated. It was later than I had meant to stay up. We live within reach of so much information these days that I could have gone on searching forever: the Mennonites, barrel racing, Rotterdam, the pathology of multiple suicides within a family. But then sometimes, paradoxically, having so much information can seem to diminish or misdirect our comprehension of a thing like suicide, a thing like grief. As I fell asleep at last, what occurred to me was that Toews' book was a bittersweet proof of this: that where the usefulness of information ends, the usefulness of the novel begins."

https://www.chicagotribune.com/entertain...story.html
"Talk nonsense, but talk your own nonsense, and I'll kiss you for it. To go wrong in one's own way is better than to go right in someone else's. 
F. D.
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#2

On suicide that runs in families, Mennonites and a review of AMPS
I haven't read All My Puny Sorrows but it sounds good.
I picked up a book a few years ago called History of a Suicide: My Sister's Unfinished Life by Jill Bialosky. It's masterfully written and I recommend the book.

While reading it, I learned the writer while growing up with her family lived only about 5 miles from my grandparents in suburban Cleveland. My jaw dropped when I read the writer reference the same restaurant that my family always went to when visiting (called Geraci's in University Heights, it's still open, I checked!). Two other sisters were waitresses there. For all I know, they waited on us when we ate there. Such a weird feeling when I read the book.

-Teresa
There is in the universe only one true divide, one real binary, life and death. Either you are living or you are not. Everything else is molten, malleable.

-Susan Faludi, In the Darkroom
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#3

On suicide that runs in families, Mennonites and a review of AMPS
(02-15-2020, 01:57 AM)Tres Leches Wrote: I haven't read All My Puny Sorrows but it sounds good.
I picked up a book a few years ago called History of a Suicide: My Sister's Unfinished Life by Jill Bialosky. It's masterfully written and I recommend the book.

While reading it, I learned the writer while growing up with her family lived only about 5 miles from my grandparents in suburban Cleveland. My jaw dropped when I read the writer reference the same restaurant that my family always went to when visiting (called Geraci's in University Heights, it's still open, I checked!). Two other sisters were waitresses there. For all I know, they waited on us when we ate there. Such a weird feeling when I read the book.

-Teresa


Teresa, I seem to remember you mentioning this at some point.  If it isn't too personal can you tell me if you have a suicide in your family background.  My family seems to prefer death by life style with some choosing alcohol and drugs and others choosing to ignore medical advice for conditions which are probably also the result of life style choices.  I remember @"outtathereligioncloset" posting a horrible experience of suicide in her family.

But the suicide in this story seems like a pure case of disinterest in living unabated by frustration in fulfilling personal goals or horrible life circumstances.  In this one you finally just wish the sister/author would help the older one do herself humanely after watching suffer through botched attempts which wind her back onto a psych ward where the staff is neither sympathetic nor helpful.

The part that makes the reading of it bearable is watching the auther/sister struggle but recover equilibrium, possibly even growing through the experience.
"Talk nonsense, but talk your own nonsense, and I'll kiss you for it. To go wrong in one's own way is better than to go right in someone else's. 
F. D.
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#4

On suicide that runs in families, Mennonites and a review of AMPS
@Mark , a close friend's dad, who was like a second dad to me, shot himself at home. He was ill and depressed. This was maybe 10 years ago or so. My friend found him the next day, which also was her birthday.
I've also known people over the years who seem to want to hasten their own demise in a passive way by not taking care of themselves.

I'm always curious to read about the topic of suicide, not in a morbid sense, but maybe because it seems like a taboo and stigmatized topic in our society.

-Teresa
There is in the universe only one true divide, one real binary, life and death. Either you are living or you are not. Everything else is molten, malleable.

-Susan Faludi, In the Darkroom
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