18th read: All My Puny Sorrows

Tricky one. I almost grouped it with my flops, but I did enjoy some moments. I think it just came into my life at the wrong time. 

My main problems with this book are kind of personal.

I could relate much more to Elf (the suicidal sister) than Yoli (the protagonist). This frustrated me beyond belief. I know what it’s like for others to ignore your mental health until you feel beyond saving. I know what it’s like for them to equate alive with okay. I know what it’s like for them to strip your control away in the name of safety. I know what it’s like for them to be satisfied as long as you’re living, even if that life is miserable. I know what it’s like for them to finally give up from exhaustion.

I recently de-activated my Facebook to take space from my family, following similar thoughts. This book felt ill-timed, like salt on my wound.

Rating: 3 out of 5.


All My Puny Sorrows


Miriam Toews








Fiction, Contemporary, Canadian, Mental Health


You won’t forget Elf and Yoli, two smart and loving sisters. Elfrieda, a world-renowned pianist, glamorous, wealthy, happily married: she wants to die. Yolandi, divorced, broke, sleeping with the wrong men as she tries to find true love: she desperately wants to keep her older sister alive. Yoli is a beguiling mess, wickedly funny even as she stumbles through life struggling to keep her teenage kids and mother happy, her exes from hating her, her sister from killing herself and her own heart from breaking.

But Elf’s latest suicide attempt is a shock: she is three weeks away from the opening of her highly anticipated international tour. Her long-time agent has been calling and neither Yoli nor Elf’s loving husband knows what to tell him. Can she be nursed back to “health” in time? Does it matter? As the situation becomes ever more complicated, Yoli faces the most terrifying decision of her life.

All My Puny Sorrows, at once tender and unquiet, offers a profound reflection on the limits of love, and the sometimes unimaginable challenges we experience when childhood becomes a new country of adult commitments and responsibilities. In her beautifully rendered new novel, Miriam Toews gives us a startling demonstration of how to carry on with hope and love and the business of living even when grief loads the heart.


10 jan 2023


17 jan 2023



Writing Quality:















I don’t know why I kept reading this book, but it wasn’t escapism. Elf’s family reminded me of my own, although they’re much more involved in her life.

I enjoyed some moments, but others left me frustrated. I’m not sure what to think of Yoli and Elf’s bond. Their love felt real, but I disliked how often Yoli spoke/thought about Elf (like she could just ‘decide to live’ or she was a burden, or she was selfish for hurting others). Those feelings are valid, but not nicest for someone struggling with mental health to read.

I was involuntarily hospitalized for suicide in Canada and couldn’t help compare my experiences. Some of Elf’s treatment in the book was realistic, but some of it was not. (ex: If we didn’t come to the dining hall every meal, we were physically dragged, restrained and force fed. If we repeated this, we got sent to an isolated section) (another ex: my uncle tried to sneak me fast food and almost got tackled) Perhaps it has to do with different provinces addressing mental health differently.

The theme of assisted suicide took me a little by surprise. I have mixed feelings about where they took it.

I appreciated the history of suicide in the family & that Elf’s misery were not painted as a mysterious thing that sprouted from her genius. Generational trauma plays a big role in her misery, perhaps the biggest.

I wish I discovered this book at a different time, but I don’t regret reading it. It was alright.

Find this author & book

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