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Irma Voth: A Novel Hardcover – September 6, 2011


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; First Edition edition (September 6, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062070185
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062070180
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.8 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,216,164 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“The wryly funny title character keeps the story poignant.” (USA Today)

“A strong and skillful novel . . . a parable of redemption, a powerful theme . . . that leaves the reader with a comforting glow of hope.” (Annie Proulx, Financial Times)

“In this compelling and beautiful novel, Toews’s quirky and authentic voice shows increasing range and maturity. She is well on her way to fulfilling her promise as an important and serious writer.” (Montreal Gazette)

“Toews . . . combines an intimate coming-of-age tale with picaresque and extremely effective prose.” (Publishers Weekly)

“Miriam Toews has a remarkably light touch. She combines a playfully sardonic humour with crushing pathos.” (Times Literary Supplement (London))

“Simultaneously poignant and humorous . . . perfectly captures this young woman’s attempt to find her niche in a world so different from that in which she was raised . . . Toews’s unique voice shines.” (Booklist)

“A literary novel marked by charm, wit and an original approach to language.” (Kirkus)

“ . . . endearingly odd and affecting . . . [Toews] writes with an instinctive grasp of the adolescent point of view.” (Maria Russo, New York Times Book Review)

“A witty and thoughtful coming-of-age story. . . . A novel about parenthood and sisterhood, and about redefining those relationships as people grow . . . it succeeds tremendously.” (The Washington Independent Review of Books)

From the Back Cover

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.


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Customer Reviews

She gets a job.
Pasiphae
Slogging my way through it, I found improvement in the story in the second half, but not enough to redeem this strange offering from Miriam Toews.
Eliza Bennet
It was just hard for me to engage with the cast of characters.
P. Woodland

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Jaylia3 TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 4, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Set in a rural Mennonite community in contemporary Mexico, this latest book from Canadian author Miriam Toews is a poignant and dryly humorous coming of age story. I've enjoyed all of Miriam Toews novels and while this isn't my favorite--that would be either The Flying Troutmans, which is funnier, or A Complicated Kindness, which deals more directly with the difficulties facing a teenage Mennonite--Irma Voth did keep me engaged enough that I read the entire book in 24 hours.

Nineteen-year-old Irma Voth has been banished by her strict Mennonite father, but he's refused to let her leave. Instead, she lives nearly alone in a small house on the family compound with no one allowed to visit or talk with her, though her mother and rebellious younger sister Aggie sneak over when they can. The crime that earned her father's wrath was marrying a local Mexican man, but her husband is gone most of the time now, tending to what is probably drug-related business, so Irma is almost completely isolated.

Salvation comes and her world opens up when a film crew making a movie about Mennonites rents the home Irma's cousins used to live in. Irma is hired as a translator and cook which further infuriates her father, setting the story in motion and Irma on the path to independence. It's independence with a lot of responsibilities since Irma won't abandon her sisters. Like all of Miriam Toew's novels, Irma Voth is quirky, compelling and beautifully written.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By LH422 VINE VOICE on December 11, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
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.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By P. Woodland TOP 1000 REVIEWER on September 15, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Irma Voth is a young Mennonite woman from Canada whose family moved to Mexico. She is married to a Mexican man named Jorge who is a rather absent man. She has a very annoying younger sister named Aggie. A somewhat famous movie director comes to her middle of nowhere existence to film a movie about which I never understood the concept. In fact there were many things in this book about which I never understood.

It is written in Irma's voice in a very stream of consciousness way. Topics can change in an instant and have minimal bearing to one another. Very little is explained. Maybe I needed to be under the influence of some of what Irma's husband was hiding in the barn....

The book did have its moments; some scenes were very funny. It was just hard for me to engage with the cast of characters. So many of them were impossible to like and the overall tone of the book is so very sad.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Susan Anderson VINE VOICE on August 17, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Irma Voth was my first introduction to Miriam Toews and I have to say, I now want to read more. From what I gather, this isn't her very best work, but it certainly did enough to help me see she's an incredibly talented writer who has many stories to tell.

I admit, it took me a while to get into this book. I thought I would love it from the very first page, but then it started moving slowly and I was losing my focus. But suddenly, it picked up again and I found myself unable to put the book down. Don't get discouraged if you find yourself struggling early on... It's worth it to continue on. In the end, you'll be very happy you finished the novel.

Irma Voth is one of those easy to feel connected to characters. She's innocent, but strong. Smart, but weak. She has you rooting for her and hoping she comes out on top. You'll likely find yourself needing to find out what happens to her and her family.

I can't wait to see what else Miriam Toews has in store for me!
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Nicola Manning-Mansfield on May 27, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition
Reason for Reading: I adored "The Flying Troutmans" and wanted to try another book by the author.

Irma Voth is about a family who are Mennonites but ultimately that is not a big issue in the story; they could really be any very rural, backwoods type of people as the Voths are pretty much loners and there is not a lot of Mennonite community activities or lifestyle portrayed in the book.

The Voths are originally from Canada but one day they picked up and moved to a Mennonite Community in Mexico. They live remotely, on land where the father owns three houses. We meet Irma as her husband is leaving her. Irma has been shunned by her father because she eloped and married a Mexican. They live in one of his houses and work his land for free but he does not speak with them. Irma's husband comes back every now and then as he is involved in the drug trade and he keeps his "goods" in the barn. A famous Mexican director comes to the area and rents the third house on the property for his crew as he makes a movie about Mennonites. The father hates everything these people stand for but his youngest daughter becomes curious and sneaks away to watch them. Irma is offered a job as translator since she speaks German, Mexican and English, which she excepts, since she has no income and no husband now. The plan is to eventually leave the stranglehold of her father.

There is no denying that Toews is a beautiful writer who has a lyric way with words and can add a touch of wit to scenes where it is least expected. The story is a slow moving one, not one to be rushed, even though I did read it within the time frame of a day. I find it hard to review this book because I'm not ecstatic about the story but neither did I dislike it. I never really connected with the characters.
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