Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Flying Troutmans by Miriam Toews

In full disclosure I must admit that I began reading Ms. Toews because, like her, I was also was born and bred in Winnipeg. Ok, I don’t really know that she was born there, but she certainly lives there. It makes me love her. The fact that she is an insanely talented writer certainly doesn’t hurt either.

The Flying Troutmans is the third of her books that I’ve read. It is also, in my opinion, the funniest. How she manages to write about such topics as severe depression and interject such madcap humor (and it really is madcap at times) is a feat. It is heartbreaking, heartwarming, and a wonderful emotional experience reading her stories.

Min, mother of two, has once again fallen into a severe depression and must be hospitalized. Hattie, her younger sister comes back from Paris to help out (just as she is dumped by her boyfriend who is going to an Ashram in India - he says they’ll communicate telepathically…). Thebes, insists on wearing a blue terry cloth short outfit, not washing, speaks as though she belongs in a 1990s hip-hop group, and makes giant oversized novelty checks. Logan is often silent, especially when he is carving cryptic messages into the van dashboard, stealing the van to shoot hoops, or creating personal ads for school assignments.

I am fifteen years old. I am a consistent B student and enjoy watching football and other things on television. I like gambling and am extremely wealthy. I enjoy films and music of all kinds. I like many different kinds of food and desserts including breakfast. I hate the cold and own many warm garments. I like people who are easy going and have a crazy sense of humour. No member of my family is “known” by the bolice and I am relatively well-adjusted.

Hattie, at a loss of what to do, decides to pack up the kids and take them on a road trip to find their father. Hijinx and heartfelt healing ensue. And if not healing, at least coming to terms with the reality of the situation.

We never really meet Min. We see her through the eyes of her family. We learn about her through shared stories and memories. We see that although she has struggled with severe depression her whole life, she is a force of nature. Her family loves her fiercely, even if they are at a loss about how to help her. One story that I particularly loved was how she hated her son’s kindergarten teacher. The teacher had called her and expressed concern that Logan didn’t know his colors or how to hop on one foot. She was incensed. Several years later she had a chance encounter with the teacher while he was waiting at the bus stop. She harassed him hopping on one foot telling him things like, “oh, look, it’s very important to be able to do this. Can you do this? Because if you are not able to hop on one foot you may as well kill yourself. Nobody will hire you. Nobody will marry you. Nobody will want to be your friend.” No wonder her kids idolized her despite her flaws.

This is one of those books that you want to share with everyone. It is that wonderful.

(A note on the cover, this is the UK cover. I just picked it because I liked it the best.)


Kelly said...

The premise sounds a little like Broken Soup and Saving Francesca, both of which I loved. Okay, make this the THIRD book added to my hold list tonight based on your reviews. :)

Kelly said...

THANK YOU for this recommendation! I absolutely LOVED this book. :)

Patti said...

Yay! I'm so happy you liked it! Everything she writes is awesome. But the other one I liked almost as much as this one is "A Complicated Kindness."