Last Updated on August 6, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 669
The novel A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews has many memorable quotes that highlight the themes of the story.
“And I put on 'All My Love' and watched the sun rise yet again and thought thank you Robert Plant for all your love but do you have anymore?”
Nomi escapes her suffocating Mennonite town through music.
“It may have been the light at 5:36 on a June evening or it may have been the smell of dust combined with sprinkler water or the sound of the neighbor kid screaming I'll kill you but suddenly it was like I was dying, the way I missed her. Like I was swooning, like I was going to fall over and pass out. It was like being shot in the back. It was such a surprise, but not a very good one. And then it went away. The way it does. But it exhausted me, like a seizure.”
“It’s hard to grieve in a town where everything that happens is God’s will. It’s hard to know what to do with your emptiness when you’re not supposed to have emptiness.”
These quotes show the extent to which Nomi’s mother and sister leaving the family has left wounds that refuse to heal, even three years later. Nomi and her father do not feel at liberty to show their sadness openly.
“It seemed like he could never figure out which Trudie he loved the best, the docile church basement lady in the moon boots or the rebellious chick with the sexy lingerie. I imagine that both of those extremes were just poses and that the real Trudie fell somewhere in between. But that’s the thing about this town—there’s no room for in between. You’re in or you’re out. You’re good or you’re bad. Actually, very good or very bad. Or very good at being very bad without being detected.”
This quote highlights the repressive nature of East Village and the complex nature of true human identity. Nomi wrestles with defining herself as she questions the true nature of the adults in her life.
“The town office building has a giant filing cabinet full of death certificates that say choked to death on his own anger or suffocated from unexpressed feelings of unhappiness.”
Nomi reflects on how she suspects all the members of her community may feel repressed, unable to express their true feelings or identities. She imagines that everyone is, to some extent, hiding pieces of themselves or their emotions.
“But there is a kindness here, a complicated kindness. You can see it sometimes in the eyes of people when they look at you and don't know what to say.”
Nomi shows understanding of the complexity of life in East Village. She does not blame the individuals in her strict, conformist town. Rather, she sees that they may have more fellow feeling than they reveal.
“It was the first time in my life that I had been aware of my own existence. It was the first time in my life I had realized that I was alive. And if I was alive, then I could die, and I mean forever. Forever dead. Not heaven, not eternal life on some other plane . . . just darkness, curtain, scene. Permanently. And that was the key to my new religion, I figured. That’s why life was so fucking great. I want that day back. I want to be nine again and be told, Nomi: someday you’ll be gone, you’ll be dust, and then even less than dust. Nothing. There’s no other place to be. This world is good enough for you because it has to be. Go ahead and love it.”
Nomi’s view contrasts with the religious values of her community. They are taught that this life on earth is merely a waiting zone for eternal life after death. Nomi, though, sees the need to seize this life because this may be all there is.