Miriam Toews’ The Flying Troutmans is a delightful read. The three characters, Hattie, Logan and Thebes, embark on a road trip to find the kids’ father after their mother has a psychotic breakdown. Hattie suggests this because a) she doesn’t know if she can (or wants to) take care of them and b) because she doesn’t know what else to do.
Two things happen to Hattie during this road trip. First, she learns how to take care of these kids. She initially attempts to take their mother’s place but quickly realizes that that these kids are too smart for that. Instead, she learns from them how best to lead the next stage of their lives. She’ll take care of them but she won’t tell them what to do. Second, she learns how to care of her sister. Her childhood was dominated by an intense fear of Min, both for what she might do to herself and for what she might do to her; Hattie’s life is and always will be dominated by her sister. Hattie embraces this fact, and though this may seem sad, it is really for herself that she must do this.
The kids, too, learn how to take care of their mother. Logan seems to be the most mature 15-year-old in history – he deliberately creates extreme situations to expedite his own maturing process; by the end, he is ready to care for his sister(s) and mother. Thebes, on the other hand, is born 40 and acts how she thinks an 11-year-old should act. It is all in preparation for what is to come.
Toews is a great writer – tight, flowing prose with tangents inserted at the right moments and dialogue that is efficient but always genuine; there are no long passages about the meaning of life in Toews’ books. Instead, the characters bring a sense of what life is – or what purpose is – through their experiences. The book has a happy ending but doesn’t descend into cliché or convenience.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and give it five oversize novelty cheques out of five.
21 hours ago