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A Complicated Kindness Summary

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It is more commonly known as the East Reserve in Manitoba
It was one of two pieces of land set aside by the Canadian government for the immigrant Mennonites coming from Russia It’s southernmost boundary is about 20 miles from the US border Mennonites had been adjusted in Russia to life in the open steppes (grasslands, prairies of russia) and preferred the open prairies. This would explain why the mennonites chose to settle in the praries because they knew how to strike living water from level ground, how to build comfortable huts, and how to heat them, too, without a stick of wood; they also knew how to plant shelter belts for protection against the icy winds of the northern plains. It was very similar to their way of living in Russia The prairies are basically the farming industries. It goes with a flashback that Nomi told about farmers being very important. The teacher pretends to be a professor but she was not allowed onto the heaven train, nor was Rockin’ Rhonda, nor Slugger Sam. However, farmer Fred was allowed onto the train “because he had Jesus in her heart” (52)

Connecting Chapter 15-21:
This book reminded me a lot of mean girls too. It connected a lot to acceptance. I think that the Mennonite community that Nomi lives in that has very exact guidelines and rules and if you don’t follow them like everyone else you are not as easily accepted. Just like in the Mean Girls where if you didn’t follow what the “Plastics” thought was right or live by their commands, you were pronounced a ‘nerd’ or ‘an outcast’ or in the Mennonite community ‘ex-communicated.’ In mean girls the main character Cady (Lindsay Lohan) moved to a new place and was never really accepted as normal, she never seemed to blend in. The choices that she made led her to stand out. Although didn’t exactly move to a new place, this relates to Nomi because she too stands out for what she does (rebelling) or what she and her family are known for.

Questions Chapter 21-27:
What do you think the reason behind Trudie’s anger or break down at the Mouth was? When Nomi says, “It’s hard to grieve in a town where everything that happens is God’s will”, what do you think it means? Last time we touched a bit on the relationship between Nomi and her father. So to go along a bit with that, why do you think that the only meaningful or deep conversations they have are via notes? I mean any serious topic or that of Trudie leaving, is on notes that they each leave for other? How does show the extent/ depth of their relationship? When they personally speak to each other, it seems formal and awkward They understand each other and their feelings

When Nomi says, “I miss kids. The way they react to everything like they’re alive,” do think that that reflects upon her life. That at some point she was like that but now she feels, well, ‘dead’? Do you think that Nomi blames Tash and Trudie for the fact that she has to stay in town? (297) After Ray leaves, the note he leaves Nomi in on part says, ” and remember when you are leaving, to brush the dust from your feet as a testimony against them.” The novel doesn’t tell us against whom but what do you think Ray meant by that? Do you think that Mr. Quiring’s letter had anything to do with Trudie’s leaving? She didn’t want to hurt Ray by having him find out the truth about her affair Do you think Nomi will actually leave the town?

Thinking Question:
The Mennonites act the way they do because of their religion, but is detaching yourself from the world really what their religion asks of them? (is that what God would want them to do) -free will in religion

Whenever serious topics or topics related to Tash and Trudie leaving come up, why do you think humour is used as an escape? The author uses a lot of imagery to describe what Nomi wants. I.e. the dresses dancing freely in the wind. What does Nomi really want? (back up) When she says, “there is a complicated kindness here. You can see it in the eyes of people when they look at you…,” what could she mean?

Chapters 1-7:
Nomi, “Naomi” Nickel is a Mennonite girl who lives with her father Ray
“Raymond” Nickel. Her sister Tash (Natasha) leaves the town with her boyfriend Ian and her mother Trudie (Gertude) leaves a couple months after Tash. She anticipates failure in school but doesn’t think it matter because she will end up working at a chicken abattoir called Happy Family farms She has a flashback to when she was 8 and walking with her mother when she saw a class mate try to kill a chicken. According to Nomi, death seems to be the main event. There is no purpose to life as they are all waiting for the day they die and can go to heaven, depending on how they lived on earth, to live eternally with their families. It is here when we find out that instead of dreaming of what heaven would be like we discover that Nomi wants to go to New York City She also reflects on what could have happened in Menno Simmons’ life that made him turn his back on the world Nomi’s mother Trudie is introduced and she seems to be different from the others. She reads mystery novels, wears lingerie and has a fierce and unpredictable personality. She is interested in life outside the town and would talk to strangers or tourists that came from the city. Her brother is the pastor and Nomi refers to him as ‘The Mouth’ Nomi finds Trudie’s passport which disappoints her because she had made up a story of Trudie going to exotic places and living life how she wanted to. Nomi has a boyfriend named Travis whom she met at a New Year’s Party. She talks about how she tries to be mysterious; laughing on the outside and crying on the inside type of thing. She wasn’t good at but just liked the bravado of the effort. Ray has always been torn between his faith and his love for Trudie, but now that Trudie is gone, there is no more conflict.

Even though Tash and Trudie have left, Ray and Nomi have never screamed or broken down. However, their internally they are, “chipping off and turning grey.” Nomi’s friend Lydia has been hospitalized. Nomi and her are opposites. Lydia a good Christian girl but unlike the rest of the town, she does not judge others. Their friendship is often about protection, “or recognizing the familiar flickering embers of each other’s dying souls. Travis and Nomi spend a lot of time at the pits where kids are drinking, smoking, screwing, fighting, and throwing up. She meets Sheridan, her old friend and remembers how his father was excommunicated which made his mother crazy. Trudie has said that his father should have left to save his mother the pain. One day while standing in her grandmother’s field, she saw two black dressed dancing freely in the wind.

One landed next to her so she placed a rock on it because it seemed too scared to touch. She goes back to it in the present day and is disappointed and pissed off to see it is no longer there. She claims that, she “doesn’t know where anything goes” Ray hates making decisions and likes irrefutable facts because they do not change (unlike wives and daughters) Nomi had a bed time ritual when she was 6/7where she would ask her mother to tell her the story of the people who got excommunicated Reinforced her belief of right and wrong as those who did wrong were punished Trudie reminded her that there was always a possibility of forgiveness Nomi sees the town as a very simplistic place, but there is a ‘complicated kindness’ in people’s eyes when they look at someone or ask how her father is faring without Trudie. Nomi once talks to her teacher about wanting to be free, to what forgiveness is and wanting to know who she is. One time while walking by the Mouth’s house, Nomi saw him leaning on the stove looking completely defeated. A few months later, she noticed her mother in the same position. She was watching a dog and said that she envied the dog’s freedom. When asked about her statement by Nomi, she changed the topic. She remembers Tash and Trudie and thinks of where they are and what they may be doing. She later says, “I’m only mentioning these things because they weigh on me. Not because I let them control my life.” (73)

Chapter 8-14:
Nomi decides to say good-bye to everyone but not go anywhere She talks about if you go to the city for a long period of time, you can no longer go to heaven “forfeit your place in line to heaven.” (78) After talking about the time Nomi’s bonnet on fire, Gloria talks about how Nomi doesn’t have any scars and Nomi from the inside was screaming “That is where you are so wrong” One of the biggest sins in town was to be sure of yourself

While visiting Lids in the hospital, Nomi loses her temper and throws apple juice at the nurse. The nurse leaves and another nurse politely asks her to leave and if she had any problems come to her in the future so they can work it out. Nomi was overwhelmed by her kindness and tried to concentrate on something painful so she didn’t feel happy about something like that.

Chapter 15-21:
Mr. Quiring comes and talks about Tash skipping school and leading the class. He said however that she had a dramtic flair and it was too bad that she couldn’t develop it. Trudie continues to repeat to Ray that Tash didn’t belong in the town. Travis talks about going to Europe but Nomi declines immediately saying that too many variables. Seems like she is giving up on life outside of town. A little girl comes to Nomi before school and asks if she can play charades. Nomi relents after a little while and humours the girl and even makes her laugh. On her way, a rock hits a boy and she helps him, talks to him and offers him a cigarette. She also comforted him when he was about to cry. When asked by the guidance counsellor what goals Nomi had she said city planner. She later offers Nomi a hug but Nomi smiled and left Nomi goes to the doctor to get the birth control pill

She sees a girl with a stroller too small for her but the girl continues to strap herself to it. Nomi relates to her and wonders if, “I wonder if she felt the way I did about people who told you something that was just not fuckin’ true and if she felt like screaming at them and hurting them and plunging herself into chemically induced oblivion. She visits Lids and washes her hair and Nomi’s father buys a new suit. Nomi was neglected as a child because of Tash’s rebellion and Ray hoped that she would still thrive. He took her hand which made her feel better Nomi really did look up to Tash because she fantasised herself in Tash’s place with her boyfriend but when Tash refuses to answer her questions, Nomi breaks down and says that she will burn in hell forever Tash tells Nomi that God is love before she leaves town with Ian and becomes an Atheist Ray needs an anderoid operation and Nomi is worried about him as she counts the seconds between his breathes Nomi spends time with Travis and thinks that relationships are easier when all you have to do is work on standing up together

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