All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews

//ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=US&source=ac&ref=qf_sp_asin_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=dantra0c-20&marketplace=amazon&region=US&placement=1940450276&asins=1940450276&linkId=CS6UNXFDVOJOSRM7&show_border=true&link_opens_in_new_window=trueAll My Puny Sorrows is a tedious and drawn-out novel detailing the frequent suicide attempts of Elf and her sister’s increasing desperation to keep Elf alive.

Elf seemingly has it all, and yet her favorite hobby is trying to off herself. She goes on countless diatribes in which she justifies her need for death and her right to it. Yet, she can’t seem to kill herself. The mere fact that her dozens of attempts have all failed suggests that maybe she just craves the attention that comes with each subsequent hospitalization, but maybe that’s just me. I know that the point of this book wasn’t meant to be that Elf sucks at suicide, but that’s really all I could think about. You’d think if she really wanted to do it she could have pulled it off.

I suspect that Miriam Toews intended to create a sympathetic character that would help people understand why someone might choose suicide. Toews failed at this. Elf literally has it all – she is a respected and even worshiped pianist, has a devoted man and a family that loves her. Elf is completely blind to the consistent pain she causes her family. She is selfish and unlikable. I wanted her to kill herself; I was genuinely disappointed each time she botched it up.

Long and repetitive, All My Puny Sorrows can be summarized as follows (WARNING: spoilers ahead): Elf attempts suicide. Elf fails. Elf is committed to the hospital. Elf devastates family. Elf is released from the hospital. Repeat 32 times. Elf actually kills herself. The end.

 

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