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Irma Voth    by Miriam Toews order for
Irma Voth
by Miriam Toews
Order:  USA  Can
Knopf, 2011 (2011)

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* * *   Reviewed by Michael Graves

Miriam Toews' new book Irma Voth dazzles the reader from the very beginning. This is a very well written book about a Mennonite family living in Mexico. The characters are colourful and intriguing for the reader to follow. Toews claimed never to revisit her Mennonite roots, but thankfully she did.

Within the first three paragraphs of Irma Voth the reader is hooked by smart writing that is absurdly witty. The characters are all engaging, but especially Irma who is always fresh and resourceful.

Irma is eighteen and escapes a domineering and abusive father by leaving her home, a Mennonite colony in rural Mexico for the fast pace of Mexico City. With her are her two younger sisters. The youngest, a newborn, was thrust on her by her mother, hoping that Irma might provide her a better future.

Before her departure, Irma worked as a translator on a local movie set. This too, is an allegory for escape from the strictures of family life. Irma provides amazingly well for her new family and the relationship with her sister, Aggie, is both loving and charming.
This book is a pleasure to read and the protagonist, Irma Voth, will remain with the reader a long time after the last page in the book is closed.

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