5 Questions with Novelist Miriam Toews!

Miriam Toews needs no introduction. She is a Canadian treasure, a Mennonite treasure, a literary treasure: all of the above. Her new novel Women Talking (Penguin Random House) is already being praised as “her most astonishing novel to date.” It is available August 21. 

  1. When did you first realize you could write? I mean, when did you write something and first think, “hey, this is actually pretty good”?
    • Hmm, I think it was when I was twelve and my cousin and I wrote a fake love-letter to my cousin’s older brother and he believed it. My cousin and I thought we were amazing, at first, but then the whole thing got dark and not funny fast because her brother went to meet the girl who had written the letter–except it was us who had written the letter– and of course she wasn’t there, and he was heartbroken. When we saw what we had done to him we confessed to our crime and apologized profusely. We felt awful. I still feel awful about that. My cousin–he’s in his 50s now like me–just had a stent put into one of his heart arteries. I just really hope that wasn’t because of the letter.
  2. How do you survive in Toronto without easy access to farmer sausage and vereniki?
    • Whenever my mom or I go to Winnipeg we make sure to load up on farmer sausage and New Bothwell cheddar cheese. We pack it into our carry-on suitcases, so we always have to haul it out and show it to the security people, who make jokes about it. We don’t care. We gotta have it. They sell New Bothwell cheese here in Toronto but only the fancy stuff, because Torontonians think they are fancy, and I only like the basic, traditional cheddar, which they don’t sell here.  I ate it non-stop as a kid, they wrapped it up in brown paper and scotch tape at the old Penner Foods on Main Street.  And whenever we go to Steinbach we always go to MJs for vereniki. And I mean always.
  3. How often do people mispronounce your surname?
    • Depends where I am. In Steinbach, never. In Winnipeg, sometimes. In Toronto and anywhere else, always. One time here in Toronto I avoided getting a speeding ticket because I told the cop that I was related to Jonathan Toews, which I’m not, I don’t think. Somebody over there at the bible school can check that out, right?
  4. What inspired your new book Women Talking?
    • Oh, you know….
  5. Did you hear about the massive Miriam Toews statue going up in Steinbach? What are your thoughts on this?
    • Well, I saw the photo, the spec. Looks pretty good. I really like the horse a lot, but would it be possible to have me holding the horse over my head like Pippi Longstocking? You know those books? I love her. I can’t remember the horse’s name.

Miriam Toews will be launching Women Talking in Toronto on August 20 at the Isabel Bader Theatre. The Winnipeg launch of Women Talking will be at McNally Robinson on August 23. 

(photo credit: 562luca76/CC)