Monday, September 12, 2011
Swing Low: A Life by Miriam Toews
Reverberating with the emotional power, authenticity, and insight of works by Susan Cheever, Gail Caldwell, Mary Karr, and Alexandra Styron, Swing Low is Miriam Toews' daring and deeply affecting memoir of her father's struggle with manic depression. Toews recounts her father's life as she imagines he would have told it, in his own voice, right up to the day he took his own life. A gracefully written and compassionate recounting of a man's battle with depression in a small Mennonite community, Swing Low is a moving meditation on family, illness, faith and love.
This is the story of a man named Mel Toews: a husband, a father, a teacher and a member of the Mennonite community. During his life, Mel battled with manic depression so severe that it eventually led him to commit suicide. In an attempt to understand her father's illness and death, Miriam Toews has written Swing Low. Told entirely from her father's perspective, Miriam is able to recreate the downward spiral Mel's mental state of mind took him through. She is able to get inside of his head and share with us the somewhat confusing and meandering manner his thoughts tended to take as he would dwell on the past. You can't help but get caught up in Mel's life and wonder how trying it must have been for him and his family to deal with his frequent bouts of despair and silence. At school, Mel shone as a teacher and was considered to be quite outgoing. However, once at home, he would just shutdown completely and deprive his family of himself . Imagine how hard it must have been for his children to see him at school laughing with their classmates, while at home a cloud of sadness seemed to surround him. I can't even begin to imagine how difficult it must have been for Miriam Toews to write this book about her father. All I know is that it is a true testament to her love for her family and her talent with writing, that she was able to produce such a moving and heartbreaking piece of work. Swing Low is an honest portrayal of a man consumed by his disease.
I would definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in nonfiction, memoirs and books about manic depression. It is an interesting and compelling book to read. You will not be disappointed.