cover image Irma Voth

Irma Voth

Miriam Toews. Harper, $23.99 (272p) ISBN 978-0-06-207018-0

Toews's (A Complicated Kindness) story unfolds in a remote Mennonite outpost in Mexico, where the strictly observant cross paths with the narcos, creating an uncomfortable cultural mix of Spanish, English, and Low German. Nineteen-year-old Irma tells of her own alienation from the Mennonites after marrying a young Mexican man. Though she still lives near her family, her patriarchal father has ordered her shunned (her spirited little sister, however, continues to visit, half-angry, half-longing for brief contact). After a quick wedding, Irma's husband is rarely home, and Irma is lonely until an eccentric crew of filmmakers arrives to make a movie set among the Mennonites. Irma works as a translator and finds much in common with these artists and lost souls. But her father holds an overblown hatred of the filmmakers, believing them evil. When his menacing opposition begins to threaten the film%E2%80%94and her sister's safety%E2%80%94Irma, ennobled by her experience on the production, makes a radical choice that will greatly affect her family. With her fifth novel, Toews, who was born into a Mennonite community in Canada, combines an intimate coming-of-age tale with picaresque and extremely effective prose. (Sept.)