A Complicated Kindness - Miriam Toews My friend Stefanie (who recommended the book) and I share a love of reading but rarely do our Venn diagrams overlap except when it comes to novels about alienated, mixed-up teens.

Nomi Nickel joins Daniel Handler's Flannery Culp (The Basic Eight) as one of my favorite characters. Like Flan, Nomi is a bright, sympathetic teen-ager struggling to create a reasonably happy life for herself.

She's also, like Flan, one of the least reliable narrators in the history of literature.

The Nickels are Mennonites, living in a small town in Canada whose chief economic lifeline seems to be the chicken-processing plant and the tourists who come by to view the "quaint sectarians" of Simon Menno. Nomi's mother and older sister have been shunned by the community for their "sins" and have left, leaving Nomi alone with her father (Ray), who is torn between his Mennonite faith and his love for wife and daughter. One of the "complicated kindnesses" of the title is that the women left so that Ray wouldn't have to choose between the two. Nomi, herself, is stifled by the strictures of the Mennonite faith and imagines a future where the family is reunited in New York and she's a groupie for Leonard Cohen but she's constrained by Ray's need for her.

I thought it was a beautifully written novel with just the right mixture of Nomi's cynicism and innocence and I would recommend it.