Sunday, December 11, 2011

Review: Irma Voth

I always want to like Toews's books more than I do. The plots always sound so interesting, but then I try and read them and am completely disinterested. That was the case again for Irma Voth. The plot sounds imaginative and compelling. Nineteen-year-old Irma lives in Mexico with her Canadian Mennonite family. She has been shunned by her father for marrying a Mexican man, who has since fled the scene. When a documentary filmmaker arrives in the community Irma gets a job as a translator, and her work allows her to make plans to break free from her highly restrictive family.

Undeniably the best part of the book is Irma's flight to freedom. Her exodus with her sisters reveals some deeply held and damning family secrets. The early part of the book, when Irma is working on the movie, is comparatively dull. One would think that conflict between some angry sectarians and famous filmmakers would be interesting, but somehow it manages to be extraordinarily dull. Toews describes every little quotidian event in Irma's world in minute detail. There's description of dialogue that simply couldn't keep my attention. The payoff is in the second half of the book, so if the reader can last through the first part they'll probably find the second easier going. That said, I keep having this experience with Towes's books. We'll see if I've learned my lesson.

Miriam Toews, Irma Voth (Harper, 2011) ISBN: 0062070185

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