Pinching Zwieback: Made-up Stories from the Darp

Book, 2023, 257 pp

Pinching Zwieback: Made-up Stories from the Darp focuses on recurrent, related characters with a common reality: small town Mennonite life. It’s socially engaged autofiction based heavily on the author’s own background and experiences. The loosely linked stories read like a novel with characters whose lives are given form by the past but undergo change as the world reshapes beliefs and circumstances.

Author Mitchell Toews, who grew up in his parents’ Mennonite bakery in Steinbach, Manitoba, employs a gritty style containing psychological depth. Toews’ stories reveal the truth behind the fiction. This collection is a blend of memory, fable, and trauma that examines profound moments in which the conflict might be subtle or camouflaged but the consequences are real. A Keatsian, “mansion of many apartments,” the stories combine to offer a broad narrative on how the people once known as the quiet in the land have evolved, and are evolving.

“Toews’ linked stories present us with a boisterous and poignant family saga unlike any other in Mennonite literature.”
– Armin Wiebe, author of The Salvation of Yasch Siemens

“Imbued with the turbulence of an ancestral river, the joy of a toboggan careening down an icy run, and the despair of dreams broken on a distant hockey rink, Mitchell Toews’ stories ask universal questions, about belonging, conforming and dissenting, all the while rooted in the snowdrifts and sun-drenched fields of a small prairie town. The answers emerge hot from the oven, fragrant like the zwieback buns of the title: we find ourselves in our family, and memories, and forgiveness, as familiar and soothing as the worn leather of a much-loved baseball glove.”
– Zilla Jones, Journey Prize winner and finalist for the RBC Bronwen Wallace Award for Emerging Writers

“Toews has that rare talent for touching your heart and being funny, too.”
– Ralph Friesen, author of Between Earth & Sky: Steinbach’s First 50 Years

"With humor, grit and the poetic grace of someone in love with a small town and its warts, Toews constructs a collection of stories of practical folk discerning across generations what should remain and what should be let go."
– Tim Huber, Anabaptist World

TopicCurrent Mennonite Cultural Identities
PublisherAt Bay Press

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