A Year of Lesser and Miriam Toews’ A Complicated Kindness by David Bergen

A Year of Lesser and Miriam Toews’ A Complicated Kindness by David Bergen

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Through David Bergen’s A Year of Lesser and Miriam Toews’ A Complicated Kindness, one can learn what salvation means to Mennonites. Protagonists Johnny Fehr and Nomi Nickel struggle with the concept of salvation through the novels and eventually, the question of salvation remains ambiguous. It is unclear at the conclusion of both novels whether the characters have achieved salvation and whether salvation itself is the key to a happy, fulfilled life. Authors Toews and Bergen are keenly and self-consciously aware of the complex notion of salvation and address it through complex characters who are not sure exactly what salvation is themselves. These characters parallel Mennonites own confusion regarding this integral aspect of faith. The methods that salvation manifests throughout the two stories of Johnny and Nomi are unique to their particular situations but transcend beyond the stories created by Bergen and Toews. The elaborate view of salvation portrayed through these two secular Mennonite authors reflects the ambiguity of salvation that Mennonites themselves have been struggling with for generations.
Nomi Nickel, a sixteen-year-old Mennonite girl living in the conservative town of East Village, longs to both fit in and stand out. Although this is typical of many teenaged adolescents, Nomi is unique because of her religious background. She stands apart from J.D. Salinger’s Holden Caulfield because Nomi’s coming-of-age story reflects an innate need to remain connected to her Mennonite upbringing. This connection to her cultural and religious background transcends to Nomi’s creator: Miriam Toews. Mennonite author, Patrick Friesen, writes:
where I grew up, I rarely thought of pacifism as meaning that you didn't fight; I ...


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... Lesser, HarperCollins: Ontario, 1996.

Born, Daniel. “A year of lesser.” Mennonite Quarterly Review 72, no. 4 (1998): 693-694. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed November 12, 2013).

Houser Hamm, Marilyn. “Singing our salvation.” Vision (Winnipeg, Man.) 7, no. 1 (2007): 54-60. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed November 19, 2013).

Huebner, Harry. “The politics of memory and hope.” Mennonite Quarterly Review 76, no. 1 (2002): 35-48. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed November 14, 2013).

Toews, Miriam. A Complicated Kindness, Random House: Toronto, 2004.

Toews, Miriam, and Natasha Wiebe. “‘It gets under the skin and settles in’: a conversation with Miriam Toews.” Conrad Grebel Review 26, no. 1 (2008): 103-124. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed November 2, 2013).

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