Nomi NIckel is a sixteen year old girl struggling with the usual teen angst, but also with the departure of her mother and sister from her rigidly religious village. A Complicated Kindness tells the story of Nomi Nickel, a sixteen year old Mennonite girl living in a small prairie town in Canada. Nomi's community is devout, and follows a strict code of conduct. When she was thirteen, her older sister Tasha left the community with her boyfriend. Then, her mother Trudi also departed mysteriously, leaving Nomi in the care of her loving but emotionally closed father, Ray.
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When we meet Nomi, she is struggling with understanding why her mother and sister left, and trying to find her place within her faith and stifling community. Nomi dreams of big cities and bigger adventures. She is restless, not doing well in school, and begins doing drugs. She finds some solace in her boyfriend, Travis, to whom she loses her virginity, but is bothered by the thought that if she stays in her hometown, she will be condemned to a dead end job at the local slaughter house.
Nomi finds out that her mother had an affair with her English teacher, Mr. Quiring, who is the person that has assigned her the task of writing the story we are reading. She also discovers that it was the affair and Mr. Quiring's threats to tell the community about her mother's betrayal that led to her mother's departure.
Nomi's behaviour continues to slide downhill, and she is excommunicated from the church for lack of attendance. She is also in trouble for setting her boyfriend's truck on fire after an argument. As this conflict peaks, Nomi's father also leaves town, finally running away from a lifetime of obedience to his culture. However, he leaves her the deed to the family home, and the vehicle, setting her free to follow her own wishes.
Best part of story, including ending:
I loved Nomi's authentic voice. She was truly a teen, but she was also a good representation of the struggles of someone growing up in a strict religious setting.
Best scene in story:
My favorite scene is when Nomi and her dad, Ray, go the the local dump and he sorts the garbage, trying to make some sense in a world where he has little control.
Opinion about the main character:
I loved Nomi's resilience and her desire to see more of the world. I am hopeful for her as the story ends.