"The Flying Troutmans"

The Flying Troutmans by Miriam Toews

Interesting. I think that's the word I'd use to describe this book. I didn't love it, but the story is quite original and there's a lot to be said for that. The characters are fresh and funky and vulnerable and they left me curious to take a look at her other novels.

It is about a woman, Hattie, who comes home from Paris after her boyfriend dumps her. She has come to take care of her sister, niece and nephew when the sister, Min, is hospitalized for the depression that has plagued her throughout her life. Hattie doesn't really know what she's doing but Logan, 15, seldom says anything and Thebes, 11, talks nonstop and Hattie needs help. She decides they should all take a road trip to find the father they haven't seen in years. She has no clear plan, just a desperation to find someone who can take responsibility for the kids.

Logan drinks, smokes pot and drives without a license; he writes poetry about death and is withdrawn and anti-social. Thebes talks constantly and like a 60 yr old. She doesn't like to wash. Hattie smokes pot with Logan and doesn't argue when he carves a picture of a bashed up head into the leather dash of the car with a knife. Issues all around. It's a very...troubled...family dynamic.

Their drive across country, with the odd assortment of people they meet and the even odder situations they find themselves in makes up the bulk of the story. As a mother I was horrified at some of the things she had the kids doing or allowed them to do, but I could also relate to the tired, sad state that finds it easier to say "sure, why not" than to argue and lose. It got a little far-fetched  but never boring. 

As with many of the books I've read lately there was more bad language than I really needed, but I found the writing good - very easy to read - and the story moved along quickly. I just realized as I've been writing that this book is very sad. It was touted as "hilarious and heartbreaking" but I didn't find the hilarity. The characters make the best of a bad situation and there are a few ironic moments but I can't recommend it as a funny book. I do recommend it though if you're ready to read something a bit raw and gritty. It will pull you in and maybe, like me, it will get you interested enough to check out some more of Toews work. I like her writing and her thinking.

I, for one, am ready for a lighter read. The steady literary diet of tragedy, illness, perversion and cynicism I've been on is taking it's toll. Fortunately, abebooks.com, has just offered a list of "feel good" reads that I think I'm ready to sink my teeth into. I just have to finish posting on the books I've already read and then I'm going to move on to something light and maybe even fun.


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