Quotes from All My Puny Sorrows

Miriam Toews ·  321 pages

Rating: (15K votes)


“But whatever, we descendants of the Girl Line may not have wealth and proper windows in our drafty homes but at least we have rage and we will build empires with that, gentlemen.”
― Miriam Toews, quote from All My Puny Sorrows


“…just because someone is eating the ashes of your protagonist doesn't mean you stop telling the story.”
― Miriam Toews, quote from All My Puny Sorrows


“Can’t you just be like the rest of us, normal and sad and fucked up and alive and remorseful?”
― Miriam Toews, quote from All My Puny Sorrows


“Dan wanted me to stay. I wanted Elf to stay. Everyone in the whole world was fighting with somebody to stay. When Richard Bach wrote "If you love someone, set them free" he can't have been directing his advice at human beings.”
― Miriam Toews, quote from All My Puny Sorrows


“It was the first time that we had sort of articulated our major problem. She wanted to die and I wanted her to live and we were enemies who loved each other.”
― Miriam Toews, quote from All My Puny Sorrows



“Go into hard things quickly, eagerly, then retreat.”
― Miriam Toews, quote from All My Puny Sorrows


“Sadness is what holds our bones in place.”
― Miriam Toews, quote from All My Puny Sorrows


“Apparently she got stranded out at sea again this time. It happens to her every time she goes to an ocean. She just bobs along on her back enjoying the sun and the undulating waves and then gets too far out and can't get back and has to be rescued. She doesn't panic at all, just sort of slowly drifts away from shore and waits to be noticed or missed. Her big thing is going out beyond the wake where it's calm and she can bob in the moonlight far out at sea. That's her biggest pleasure. Our family is trying to escape everything all at once, even gravity, even the shoreline. We don't even know what we're running away from. Maybe we're just restless people. Maybe we're adventurers. Maybe we're terrified. Maybe we're crazy. Maybe Planet Earth is not our real home.”
― Miriam Toews, quote from All My Puny Sorrows


“Nothing happens in my life. Nothing has to happen, she said, for it to be life.”
― Miriam Toews, quote from All My Puny Sorrows


“Tina nods sagely and says yes and then something in Plautdietsch, probably something like heck yeah do we ever know what sad is. Sadness is what holds our bones in place.”
― Miriam Toews, quote from All My Puny Sorrows



“And I was scrambling around trying to make money and to study and master (and fail at mastering) the art of being an adult.”
― Miriam Toews, quote from All My Puny Sorrows


“When I listened to her play I felt I should not be in the same room with her. There were hundreds of people but nobody left. It was a private pain. By private I mean to say unknowable. Only the music knew and it held secrets so that her playing was a puzzle, a whisper, and people afterward stood in the bar and drank and said nothing because they were complicit. There were no words.”
― Miriam Toews, quote from All My Puny Sorrows


“Where does violence go, if not directly back into our blood and bones?”
― Miriam Toews, quote from All My Puny Sorrows


“When my mother went to university to become a therapist she learned that suffering, even though it may have happened a long time ago, is something that is passed from one generation to the next to the next, like flexibility or grace or dyslexia.”
― Miriam Toews, quote from All My Puny Sorrows


“If you have to end up in the hospital, try to focus all your pain in your heart rather than your head.”
― Miriam Toews, quote from All My Puny Sorrows



“And then I thought that people like to talk about their pain and loneliness but in disguised ways. Or in ways that are sort of organized but not really. I realized that when I try to start conversations with people, just strangers on the street or in the grocery store, they think I’m exposing my pain or loneliness in the wrong way and they get nervous. But then I saw the impromptu choir repeating the line about everyone having holes in their lives, and so beautifully, so gently and with such acceptance and even joy, just acknowledging it, and I realized that there are ways to do it, just not the ones that I’d been trying.”
― Miriam Toews, quote from All My Puny Sorrows


“She says isn’t it funny how every second, every minute, every day, month, year, is accounted for, capable of being named—when time, or life, is so unwieldy, so intangible and slippery? This makes her feel compassion toward the people who invented the concept of “telling time.” How hopeful, she says. How beautifully futile. How perfectly human.”
― Miriam Toews, quote from All My Puny Sorrows


“In the airport we hugged each other all at once, a team huddle but with nothing but a Hail Mary left in our playbook. We'd been through all of this before. We loved each other. We fought for each other. When worlds collapsed we were buried in the rubble together and when we were dug out of the rubble and rescued we all celebrated together.”
― Miriam Toews, quote from All My Puny Sorrows


“You put the fist in pacifist?”
― Miriam Toews, quote from All My Puny Sorrows


“We drove down Corydon avenue towards my mother's apartment. How are you doing, she asked me? Fine, fine, I said. I wanted to tell her that I felt I was dying from rage and that I felt guilty about everything and that when I was a kid I woke up every morning singing, that I couldn't wait to leap out of bed and rush out of the house into the magical kingdom that was my world, that dust made visible in sunbeams gave me real authentic joy, that my sparkly golden banana-seated bike with the very high sissy bar took my breath away, the majesty of it, that it was mine, that there was no freer soul in the world than me at age nine, and that now I wake up every morning reminding myself that control is an illusion, taking deep breaths and counting to ten trying to ward off panic attacks and hoping that my own hands hadn't managed to strangle me while I slept.”
― Miriam Toews, quote from All My Puny Sorrows



“My mother tells Tina that she doesn't like books where the protagonist is established as Sad on page one. Okay, she's sad! We get it, we know what sad is, and then the whole book is basically a description of the million and one ways in which our protagonist is sad. Gimme a break! Get on with it!”
― Miriam Toews, quote from All My Puny Sorrows


“What you do at the pulpit would be considered lunatic behaviour on the street. You can’t go around terrorizing people and making them feel small and shitty and then call them evil when they destroy themselves. You will never walk down a street and feel a lightness come over you. You will never fly.”
― Miriam Toews, quote from All My Puny Sorrows


“Remember what mom used to say? “Shred the guilt.”
― Miriam Toews, quote from All My Puny Sorrows


“I learned another thing, which is that just because someone is eating the ashes of your protagonist doesn't mean you stop telling the story.”
― Miriam Toews, quote from All My Puny Sorrows


“I was just learning how to read and was reading every sign out loud, practising, and when I saw Cockburn Avenue I said Cock Burn Avenue and then asked what's that? And Elf, she must have been eleven or twelve, said that's from too much sex and my mother said shhhh from the front passenger seat and we didn't dare look over at my dad who clutched the wheel and peered out the windshield like a sniper tracking his target. There were two things he didn't ever want to talk about and they were sex and Russia.”
― Miriam Toews, quote from All My Puny Sorrows



“Books are what save us. Books are what don't save us.”
― Miriam Toews, quote from All My Puny Sorrows


“Do you know that hobo is an acronym for Homeward Bound?”
― Miriam Toews, quote from All My Puny Sorrows


“Let's not have forced gaiety this Christmas, said Nora, like it was a dish. We'll have a tiny bit of it, I said.”
― Miriam Toews, quote from All My Puny Sorrows


“And what have you been up to? she asked.
Oh, I don't know really, I said. Not much. Learning how to be a good loser.”
― Miriam Toews, quote from All My Puny Sorrows


“suffering, even though it may have happened a long time ago, is something that is passed from one generation to the next to the next, like flexibility or grace or dyslexia. My grandfather had big green eyes, and dimly lit scenes of slaughter, blood on snow, played out behind them all the time, even when he smiled.”
― Miriam Toews, quote from All My Puny Sorrows



About the author

Miriam Toews
Born place: in Steinbach, Manitoba, Canada
Born date January 1, 1964
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