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Irma Voth by Miriam Toews
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Irma Voth (2011)

by Miriam Toews

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2683942,397 (3.54)28
Recently added byprivate library, TWLNewtown, kara.shamy, ajpm, canreader, CharlaOppenlander
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    Cool Water by Dianne Warren (Cecilturtle)
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    Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man by Fannie Flagg (eleanor_eader)
    eleanor_eader: DFATMM is more definitively 'Young Adult' than Irma Voth, but a great coming-of-age tale from the point of view of a smart girl with a lot of questions. Not as dark as Irma Voth in themes, more humorous, (Toews is sparser with language, but perhaps more effective for it) but DFATMM also describes a complex unfolding into adulthood and Flagg is gifted with characterisation skills that remind me of Toews, or vice-versa.… (more)
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» See also 28 mentions

English (39)  Danish (1)  All languages (40)
Showing 1-5 of 39 (next | show all)
though i value finding the familiarity of the setting, as it is part of my family history, i am struggling with the language. continual swears become repetitive and an infection i know i'm capable of preventing. not sure if the story is worth the struggle. at this point reconsidering the read...
now done . ( )
  FHC | Jun 13, 2013 |
Irma Voth, 19, is newly married and newly deserted. A film crew moves into the area and she is hired as a translator.
The story takes place in Mexico and is probably inspired by the author's involvement in the movie "Silent Light" (which I saw with Kathy).
In this novel, there is, once again, a miserable violent father. In fact, he has killed Irma's older sister. Irma tries to protect her younger sister. Irma's mother has a baby and gives the baby to Irma when she escapes in order to protect the baby from the father. She tries to begin a new life in Mexico City and is fortunate in finding people who help her greatly.
At the end of the movle, she returns to her farm home and you don't know the reception she receives.
No characters of interest.
No ending worth reading.
After 6 weeks of a course in Miriam Toews, I still find no value in her writing. ( )
  bettyroche | Jun 2, 2013 |
Author Miriam Toews has enjoyed modest success in her home country of Canada. Of Mennonite tradition (see sidebar) and hailing from rural Manitoba, many of Toews's novels explore this way of life. She won the 2004 Governor General's Award for Fiction for A Complicated Kindness, and she was awarded the 2008 Writer's Trust Fiction Prize for her novel, The Flying Troutmans. All this to say, Toews has writerly chops.

Irma Voth came about when, in 2006, she was approached to star in a film by Mexican director Carlos Reygadas. He was taken with her photograph - seen on the jacket of her novel, A Complicated Kindness - and felt she would be perfect to play the role of a Mennonite wife living in northern Mexico, trapped in a troubled marriage. Toews studied film at university but had never acted and, initially, thought Reygadas was a bit nuts. She ignored his emails for a long time but relented when he posited that being in his film "...will give [her] something to write about." (Silent Light, the resulting movie was an independent darling in 2008 and won the Jury Prize at the Cannes International Film Festival that same year.)

And write about it she did. Miriam Toews has a wonderful and minimalist style, and in Irma Voth she explores some familiar themes - a young woman's longing for freedom, getting by on wits alone, and a road trip. She has a great ability to take readers into amazing places that are a little bit strange but a whole lot inviting, and because of her incredible skills, I was very eager to dive into her new novel.

Irma Voth revolves around a simple question posed by our protagonist: "How do I behave in this world without following the directions of my father, my husband, or God?" For a young woman raised within strict, old-order Mennonite beliefs, it is a disturbing question - one that unmoors Irma but also helps to ground her. At the beginning of the story, Irma has been disowned by her very strict and rigid father for secretly marrying a man who is outside of the Mennonite faith. While still residing in a separate house on her father's property, Irma and her husband, Jorge, struggle to communicate and make a go of their new marriage. This attempt is made all the more difficult as Jorge frequently absents himself from home for long periods of time.

Metaphorically, Irma is a widow and orphan at the age of nineteen, even though her family and husband exist. Her mother is portrayed as having two main functions - making babies and being subservient to her husband. Her sister Aggie, at only thirteen-years-old, is strong-willed, and more vocal and rebellious than Irma, though Irma does take her opportunities where she can find them. It is this relationship, the one between sisters, that Toews really explores. The level of maturity and capability of both girls is astounding. There is a resilience and hopefulness in Irma and Aggie that will make you cheer for them as they try to improve their lot in life.

Toews writes honestly and with humour, and her balanced style makes her work accessible to readers. We are given a beautiful literary story that becomes much more real with her interjections of observational wit. Her narrative never seems forced, instead it feels as though you are listening to a friend relay a tale. ( )
  DawsonOakes | Apr 10, 2013 |
I really wanted to like this one. I truly did. The description of this novel, by new-to-me author Miriam Toews, sounded so different than anything else I'd read and seemed very intriguing.

Irma Voth is 19, married, and living in a Mennonite community in Mexico. With the exception of her younger sister, Irma is pretty much estranged from her family. A filmmaker arrives in town to make a documentary and hires Irma as a translator. Irma befriends Marijke, an actress in the film and ...well, that would be as far as I got with this one.

I can't really point to one specific element of this story that made me give up after 54 pages. My two main issues were that the plot seemed to be all over the place, kind of disjointed and unstructured. Also, as much as I tried, I didn't feel connected to any of the characters. Both of these were factors in making me lose interest.

Normally I don't have any problem abandoning books that aren't working for me, but I did with this one because I was reading it as part of a TLC Book Tour. I don't do many book tours - and maybe I shouldn't do any, period, because this is now the second toured book that I didn't quite enjoy. It left me in a conundrum about what to do about the review, but after talking to the ever-so-gracious-and-understanding Trish, I decided to treat this one like any other DNF and just be honest.

Bottom line? This one just didn't work for me. However, I'm planning to donate this ARC to my local library in hopes that Irma Voth will find a reader or two who will fall deeply in love with all that she has to offer.
( )
  bettyandboo | Apr 2, 2013 |
Miriam Toews quirky style of writing takes some getting used to. She is absolutely brilliant at using dialogue to define her characters and to move the plot along. A fascinating, darkly told story! ( )
  emmee1000 | Jan 21, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 39 (next | show all)
Funny and skilfully drawn, this novel shows the real appeal of tales set in unknown communities: that underneath the unfamiliar surfaces are the exact same people – a teenage girl trying to find out who she is and how to live, driven by familiar dreams and desires, and the same need for security, love and some sense of fulfilment.
 
A good deal of Irma Voth takes place around the filming of the movie. It's a low budget art movie with great sweeping landscape shots, directors waiting for the rain, locals acting in parts when and if they appear for the shooting. Comical and sad, beautiful and dull, these scenes evoke feelings, emotions and memories in Irma. .. Irma Voth contains all of this—humour, loveable characters who find themselves—but it is slower and more contemplative, it is more subtle and a bit darker than her other books....
 
Irma Voth is about forgiveness, of others, and oneself. It’s a novel that seems to mistrust words, and chooses them with care. The early chapters on the film set suffer slightly from the ennui and chaos that are part of that process, but once the Voth girls land in Mexico City, Toews’s ability to generate comedy and heartache at the same time just soars.

 
If Irma Voth lacks both the perfect structure and colloquial manner of Toews’ Governor General’s Literary Award–winning A Complicated Kindness, this is partly explained by the fact that the new novel is a different kind of undertaking entirely: one that pushes the limits of plot and language. The deceptive simplicity of the prose makes it difficult at first to see how ambitious the novel actually is. It isn’t flawless, but it is beautiful, strange, and fascinating, and readers wise enough to trust in the author’s sure hand will be rewarded with a novel that takes them someplace altogether unexpected.

 
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For my mother, Elvira.
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Jorge said he wasn't coming back until I learned how to be a better wife.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0062070185, Hardcover)

That rare coming-of-age story able to blend the dark with the uplifting, Irma Voth follows a young Mennonite woman, vulnerable yet wise beyond her years, who carries a terrible family secret with her on a remarkable journey to survival and redemption.

Nineteen-year-old Irma lives in a rural Mennonite community in Mexico. She has already been cast out of her family for marrying a young Mexican ne’er-do-well she barely knows, although she remains close to her rebellious younger sister and yearns for the lost intimacy with her mother. With a husband who proves elusive and often absent, a punishing father, and a faith in God damaged beyond repair, Irma appears trapped in an untenable and desperate situation. When a celebrated Mexican filmmaker and his crew arrive from Mexico City to make a movie about the insular community in which she was raised, Irma is immediately drawn to the outsiders and is soon hired as a translator on the set. But her father, intractable and domineering, is determined to destroy the film and get rid of the interlopers. His action sets Irma on an irrevocable path toward something that feels like freedom.

A novel of great humanity, written with dry wit, edgy humor, and emotional poignancy, Irma Voth is the powerful story of a young woman’s quest to discover all that she may become in the unexpectedly rich and confounding world that lies beyond the stifling, observant community she knows.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:24:16 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

This novel follows a young Mennonite woman, vulnerable yet wise beyond her years, who carries a terrible family secret with her on a remarkable journey to survival and redemption. Nineteen-year-old Irma lives in a rural Mennonite community in Mexico. She has already been cast out of her family for marrying a young Mexican ne'er-do-well she barely knows, although she remains close to her rebellious younger sister and yearns for the lost intimacy with her mother. With a husband who proves elusive and often absent, a punishing father, and a faith in God damaged beyond repair, Irma appears trapped in an untenable and desperate situation. When a celebrated Mexican filmmaker and his crew arrive from Mexico City to make a movie about the insular community in which she was raised, Irma is immediately drawn to the outsiders and is soon hired as a translator on the set. But her father, intractable and domineering, is determined to destroy the film and get rid of the interlopers. His action sets Irma on an irrevocable path toward something that feels like freedom. This is the powerful story of a young woman's quest to discover all that she may become in the unexpectedly rich and confounding world that lies beyond the stifling, observant community she knows.… (more)

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