Lives Lived, Lives Imagined

Landscapes of Resilience in the Works of Miriam Toews

By Sabrina Reed
Categories: Literature & Language Studies, Literary Criticism, Auto/biography & Memoir, Regional & Cultural Studies, Social Sciences, Disability Studies, Canadian Literature
Publisher: University of Manitoba Press
Paperback : 9781772840094, 264 pages, November 2022
Hardcover : 9781772840100, 224 pages, November 2022
Ebook (PDF) : 9781772840117, 224 pages, November 2022
Ebook (EPUB) : 9781772840124, 224 pages, November 2022

Table of contents

Ch 1: Home is Where the Hope Is? A Complicated Kindness and A Boy of Good Breeding
Ch 2: “On the Road” (With Children): The Flying Troutmans and Summer of My Amazing Luck
Ch 3: “All trauma presents a choice”: Irma Voth and Women Talking
Ch 4: “Coming for to carry me home”: Autofiction and Reparation: Swing Low: A Life and All My Puny Sorrows
Epilogue: The Fight Against the Night: Fight Night


Perceptive, controversial, topical, and achingly funny, Miriam Toews’s books have earned her a place at the forefront of Canadian literature. In this first monograph on Toews’s work, Sabrina Reed examines the interplay of trauma and resilience in the author’s fiction.
Reed skillfully demonstrates how Toews situates resilience across key themes, including: the home as both a source of trauma and an inspiration for resilient action; the road trip as a search for resolution and redemption; and the reframing of the Mennonite diaspora as an escape from patriarchal oppression. The deaths by suicide of Toews’s father and sister stand out as the most shocking and tragic of the author’s biographical details, and Reed explores Toews’s use of autofiction as a reparative gesture in the face of this trauma.
Written in an accessible style that will appeal to both scholars and devotees of Toews’s work, Lives Lived, Lives Imagined is a timely examination of Toews’s oeuvre and a celebration of fiction’s ability to simultaneously embody compassion and anger, joy and sadness, and to brave the personal and communal oppressions of politics, religion, family, society, and mental illness.


“In this thorough, detailed monograph on the work of Miriam Toews, Sabrina Reed looks at the Manitoba-born writer’s recurring theme of resilience and the ways it plays out across her fiction. Reed covers a lot of ground, and her writing is admirably clear. She works with complex and difficult issues and ideas without resorting to jargon, making Lives Lived, Lives Imagined an important piece of scholarship that is also accessible to general readers.”

- Alison Gillmor

“Reed explores Toews’s novels in a nuanced, thorough manner… It was a joy to enter each of Toews’s novels’ worlds again. I have Sabrina Reed to thank for that.”

- Mary Ann Loewen