The Flying Troutmans by Miriam Toews

The Fying Troutmans

“Road trip. First day. We are in America. I’ve been profiled at the border as a retard, by Logan. They still let me in. Hattie is sad about her boyfriend in Paris. He doesn’t like her anymore. Logan told her Internet dating was making a comeback, and I told her to try to meet a whale, they mate for life. Ha,ha. Logan hit me in the face with the Frisbee. The good thing is we’re all saved. I miss you. I love you. I won’t forget the important things.”

 

 

Hattie, aged twenty-eight, was a Canadian in Paris, working in a bookshop, her relationship with her boyfriend slowly crumbling. And then, one night, the telephone rang. It was a long distance call from Thebes, Hattie’s eleven-year-old niece. Thebes had been trying to hold her family together but things were falling apart and she had no one else to turn to. So Hattie flew home – what else could she do?

Hattie’s sister Min had a history of manic depression and as soon as Hattie arrived home she saw that Min needed hospital treatment. That left her with two children:

Logan: aged fifteen, largely silent, permanently attired in hoodie and headphones main interests are shooting hoops, watching girls and kicking things.

Thebes: aged eleven, never silent, hair dyed purple (to avoid identification in shops where she was banned), dislikes baths, likes slang and making outsize novelty cheques for people she liked.

Both are trying hard to be grown-up, but are desperately vulnerable underneath. You might not want to bring them up, but you can’t help caring for them and wanting the best for them.

Hattie isn’t sure if she can cope – or indeed if she wants to cope – and so she hatches a plan. She takes the children on a journey across America to try to reunite them with the father who left ten years earlier. He was, it seems, not a bad man, but a man who couldn’t cope with the effects of his wife’s illness on her family.

The trio travel from one small town to the next, and along the way they talk. To each other and to the people on the fringes of society they meet along the way. They trade wisecracks, talk philosophies and tell stories about their lives.

Along the way they begin to appreciate the bonds that had always been there, holding them together. They come  to know  each other a little better, and to understand and accept the effects that Min’s mental illness has had on them all.

The dialogue is a joy, the characterizations are spot on and the balance is just perfect. There are some wonderful lines, but I’m afraid when I pull them out they just don’t work as well on their own. You really do need to read the whole story!

The ending comes suddenly. And there isn’t really a conclusion, just a discovery of what the next step is going to be. Maybe not completely satisfying, but certainly like life.

The Flying Troutmans is maybe a little light on plot, but that is more than made up for by the wonderful characters who will stay with you long after the story ends. I can recommend it highly to anyone who would like to take a trip with an unconventional family group!

8 responses

  1. My husband’s been telling me one of his students has been raving about this book. I wasn’t too sure about it but now that I’ve read your review, it definitely sounds like something I’d like.

  2. Pingback: Semicolon » Blog Archive » Saturday Review of Books: June 20, 2009

  3. Pingback: Review: The Flying Troutmans, Miriam Toews « Jenny's Books

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