The Flying Troutmans by Miriam Toews
Published by Random House of Canada
Rating: 5 stars
Hattie's sister Min has just been checked into a psychiatric hospital and now it is up to Hattie to make sure that Min's kids, Logan and Thebes, are looked after. In a fit of desperation Hattie decides to go on a road trip in search of the children's father, who has been estranged from them for years. Along the way, they encounter a cast of colorful characters and get into a number of interesting predicaments, which helps they become allies and band together. The reader also gets an occasional glimpse into Hattie's own childhood memories with Min, as she reflects back on Min's unstable mental history and their own fractured relationship.
I think the real testament to Miriam Toews' talent as a writer is that even though I couldn't really relate to any of the characters, I truly fell in love with each of them. As I kept reading, I grew attached to them and learned their mannerisms and all I would have to do is read the dialogue to know who said what, without it being explicitly written. Thebes, in particular, captured my heart with her hilarious expressions and unique sense of self. How can you not love an eleven-year-old who conducts art classes from the backseat, considers bathing optional and sports purple hair and fake tattoos?
It doesn't surprise me that book has won a number of awards and prizes, given the way it spoke to me and engaged me until the very end without any tricks of suspense or drama. This novel is purely character-driven and thrives on its unique dialogue and humour. There is also a more profound side to this book, that teaches us about the nature of family and how that definition can sometimes be a malleable one.
It's clear that I loved this book, but I can however acknowledge that it is not for everyone. I happen to relish this type of quirky dialogue among the characters that has the potential for deeper meaning. Instead of being bothered by the zany plot and crazy characters, I was intrigued and amused. Though this book may be too unconventional for some, for me it really got to the heart of families and relationships with the just the right blend of wit and humour.
BIG THANKS to Jessica and Random House of Canada for my review copy.