“Miriam Toews is a writer central to our national literature, straddling with ease the often separate worlds of critical acclaim and popular grass-roots readership. She has given the Manitoba Mennonites — heretofore a community under-represented almost to the point of invisibility — a worldwide profile, and she has done it in ways that make their deeply rooted stories universal.
Among her many strengths are her rare gift for inhabiting the minds of children and adolescents, and a mastery of family dynamics: typically vivid and movingly drawn is the sibling relationship at the heart of her novel All My Puny Sorrows. With the imaginative memoir Swing Low: A Life, about her father, she explored the theme of mental illness with a bravery few writers have shown. She has a unique ability to generate humour alongside heartache, enlivening life’s dark moments with her quick, offhand wit.
Toews is prolific, deeply engaged in the Canadian conversation, an indispensable voice, one of the greatest writers this country has ever produced.”
— 2016 Writers’ Trust Fellowship Jury
for All My Puny Sorrows
“In All My Puny Sorrows Miriam Toews manages to marry humour and grief so expertly that the most unbearable sadness is tempered by laughter and can therefore be borne. Yoli and Elf, the two sisters at the heart of the novel, are on opposite sides of a question about whether to live or die, but the love and compassion between them never falters. Toews, a dazzling literary alchemist who manages to summon all the joyous and heart-breaking humanity of her characters, has produced a work of astonishing depth. Reading it is an unforgettable experience.” — 2014 Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize Jury (Neil Bissoondath, Helen Humphreys, and George Murray)
“Miriam Toews is a terrifically good storyteller — engaging, tender and funny. The narrator in a Miriam Toews novel implicates us with her immediacy. She lives next door, she’s removed all the curtains, and we catch huge emotional glimpses of her life until, suddenly, she slips the curtains back on and we become the voyeurs, insistent on knowing more. She invites us onto her porch-swing, the poised, smart-aleck cousin whispering heartbreaking secrets in our ear and we don’t want her to stop. The teeter-totter of emotions she evokes is astounding, from the humorous to the melancholic and back again until laughter and sadness seep into one another. The ease of Toews’s writing is beguiling. Her stories are about loss and longing — characters stretching for anywhere else but here, and, all the while, looking for love. And approximations of happiness.”
— 2010 Writers’ Trust Engel/Findley Award (David Bergen, Michael Winter, Eleanor Wachtel)
for The Flying Troutmans
“The Flying Troutmans is a love song to young people trying to navigate the volcanic world of adult emotions. Every detail of Miriam Toews young heroes’ behavior rings startlingly true and the dialogue is pitch perfect. The premise of the book is sad, yet its execution is filled to the brim with hilarity and joy. Toews captures the rawness of teenagers’ personalities—their fledging attempts at brilliance, their hysterical naivete, and their troubled longings. ” —2008 Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize Jury (Lawrence Hill, Annabel Lyon, and Heather O’Neill)