From one prairie girl to another: Miriam Toews

Last night I decided to leave the house and brave the cold, wet night to see Miriam Toews read at McNally Robinson. Being spontaneous is such a novelty to me and I was glad to take advantage of the free evening to see the writer of one of my favorite books a complicated kindness about a girl growing up in a Mennonite community.

Ms. Toews (pronounced “tayves”) read from her newest book The Flying Troutmans. She read a part of it that she had never read before and I think she was a little nervous. I have not heard an author read from their books very often and it was such an interesting and different experience from reading it all by myself, curled up in my arm chair or under my blankets on a cold winter night before bed. I found myself laughing several times because she it was a humorous part of the book that she read. I realized that I don’t generally laugh out loud while reading. Probably I smile and maybe even chuckle, but it has to be a very funny book to cause me to laugh outright. One of the only books that has done this successfully is Catch-22 by Joseph Heller, which is the funniest and saddest book I have ever read.

As I sat there laughing with many other people in the packed restaurant in the bookstore, I realized how wonderful it was to be there to experience her. Miriam Toews is also a prairie girl from a Mennonite background. I could tell that she was one of us… a down-to-earth prairie girl. She smiled a lot, which I have been told is common amongst prairie folks – we smile and laugh more easily. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to her read the dialogue of “he said,” “I said,” “she said” that gave us just a little insight into the book that I couldn’t help but purchase that night.

Also, in the Q & A part of the evening, she was asked when she became a writer and she said that she had started when she was 28 years old. A feeling of relief swept over me: I’m not out of time.


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