“Audacious, original and profoundly moving . . . . Healing is a likely outcome of a book imbued with the righteous anger, compassion and humanity of Swing Low.” —Globe and Mail (Canada)
Reverberating with emotional power, authenticity, and insight, Swing Low is Miriam Toews's daring and deeply affecting memoir ofher father’s struggle with manic depression in a small Mennonite community inrural Canada. Personal and touching, a stirring counterpart to her novel IrmaVoth and reminiscent of works by Susan Cheever, Gail Caldwell, Mary Karr, and Alexandra Styron, Swing Low is an elegiac ode to a difficult life by an author drawing from the deepest well of insight, craft, and emotion.
Imagining her troubled father telling his life story, Canadian novelist Toews (The Flying Troutmans) offers a touching memoir. When her father was 17 years old, he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Going against the accepted 1950s medical advice, he dived into life, determined to become a "better human being." He married, raised a family, and taught school for 40 years. Yet when he committed suicide, he felt his life had amounted to little. Toews toggles between her father's memories of a happy life and his current circumstances as a patient in the local hospital, following a breakdown near the end of his life. "How to explain the process of putting the pieces of my brain together: as though I'm attempting to walk down a street and various limbs, arms and legs, continue to drop off my body. I'm getting nowhere." Teaching provided the scaffolding of normalcy for Toews's father, allowing him to function successfully in public, though later he retreated into silence while with his family. Raised within the strict, conservative Mennonite religion, Toews's father never admitted to his illness, seeing it as a flaw festering within his weak character. In this sympathetic telling, Toews shows how the opposite was true.