The Best Laid Plans

The Best Laid Plans

by Terry Fallis


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Here’s the set up: A burnt-out politcal aide quits just before an election—but is forced to run a hopeless campaign on the way out. He makes a deal with a crusty old Scot, Angus McLintock—an engineering professor who will do anything, anything, to avoid teaching English to engineers—to let his name stand in the election. No need to campaign, certain to lose, and so on.

Then a great scandal blows away his opponent, and to their horror, Angus is elected. He decides to see what good an honest M.P. who doesn’t care about being re-elected can do in Parliament. The results are hilarious—and with chess, a hovercraft, and the love of a good woman thrown in, this very funny book has something for everyone.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780771047589
Publisher: McClelland & Stewart
Publication date: 09/05/2008
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 895,680
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

TERRY FALLIS grew up in Toronto and earned an engineering degree from McMaster University. Drawn to politics at an early age, he worked for cabinet ministers at Queen's Park and in Ottawa. His first novel, The Best Laid Plans, began as a podcast, then was self-published, won the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour, was re-published by McClelland & Stewart to great reviews, was crowned the 2011 winner of CBC's Canada Reads as "the essential Canadian novel of the decade," and became a CBC Television series. His next two novels, The High Road and Up and Down were finalists for the Leacock Medal, and in 2015, he won the prize a second time, for his fourth book, No Relation. A skilled public speaker, Terry Fallis is also co-founder of the public relations agency Thornley Fallis. He lives in Toronto with his wife and two sons, and blogs at Follow @TerryFallis on Twitter.

Read an Excerpt

Part One

Chapter One

After an impressive hang time, I plummeted back to the sidewalk, my fall broken by a fresh, putrid pile of excrement the size of a small ottoman. I quickly scanned the area for a hippo on the lam.

Before I quite literally found myself in deep shit, my day had actually been ripe with promise. I’m a big believer in signs. After six straight days of rain, I believed the sun burning a hole in the cloudless, cobalt sky was a sign — a good one. It somehow lightened the load I’d been lugging around in my mind for the previous six weeks. I lifted my face to the warmth and squinted as I walked along the edge of Riverfront Park. Even though it was a Monday morning, I hummed a happy little tune. Maybe, just maybe, things were looking up. Unfortunately, so was I.

My foot made a soft landing on the sidewalk and shot forward all on its own, leaving a brown, viscous streak in its wake. Congenitally clumsy, I was well into the splits before I managed to drag my trailing leg forward and slip the surly bonds of earth. Airborne, I surveyed the terrain below and, with all the athletic prowess of a quadriplegic walrus, returned safely to earth, touching down on the aforementioned crap cushion.

Just after I landed, I counted roughly twenty witnesses, who stared slack-jawed before many of them split their sides. Fortunately, only a handful of them had video cameras. I expect you can still find me on Everyone seemed quite amused by the prominent sign planted three feet to my left: keep cumberland clean. please stoop and scoop. The owners of whatever behemoth produced this Guinness-book offering would have needed a Hefty bag and a snow shovel.

And what an unholy aroma. I’ve always believed that English is better equipped than any other language to capture the richness and diversity of our daily lives. I promise you, the Oxford Concise does not yet have words to describe the stench that rose like a mushroom cloud from that colossal mound. Stepping in it was one thing; full immersion was quite another.

Bright sun in a clear blue sky — good sign. Russian split jump into a gigantic dog turd — not a good sign. Good form, good air, but not a good sign.

An hour and a shower later, I retraced my steps, eyes fixed on the pavement, ignoring the two township workers in hazmat suits at the scene of my fall. I quickened my pace, pumping myself up for the important encounter ahead. After nearly six weeks of intensive searching, I was down to my last seven days. I’d tried flattery, threats, cajolery, blackmail, and bribery, but had come up empty and bone-dry — nothing.

In the first two weeks after my arrival in Cumberland, I’d spoken to the mayor and every town councilor, including the lone Liberal, as well as the head of the chamber of commerce. No dice. In week three, I had pleaded with prominent business leaders, local doctors and lawyers, the head of the four-bus transit authority, and the high-school principal. They’re all still laughing. In fact, one of them needed two sick days to rest a pulled stomach muscle. Last week, I had bought drinks for the local crossing guard, baked cookies for the chief instructor at the Prescott Driving School, and shared inane banter with the golf pro at the Cumberland Mini-Putt. No luck, although the crossing guard at least listened to half my spiel before holding up her stop sign.

I like to think that one of my few strengths is a keen sense of when I’m doomed. None of this “the glass is half full” stuff for me. I know when I’m in deep. So I gave up and returned to the no-hope option I’d rejected at the outset as cruel and unusual punishment. But what else could I do? I had splinters from scraping the bottom of the barrel.

The Riverfront Seniors’ Residence loomed on my left just beyond the park. Built in 1952, it had that utterly forgettable but, I suppose, practical architecture of that era — early Canadian ugly. Two wings of rooms extended along the riverbank on either side of a central lobby. Everything looked painfully rectangular. The only architectural grace note, just adjacent to the dining room, was a curved wall of windows, overlooking the Ottawa River. For the residents, the panorama provided a welcome distraction from the steam-table cuisine.

The lounge next to the dining room was populated with 30-year-old couches and chairs, sporting strangely hued upholstery from the “shades of internal organs” collection, accessorized by protective plastic slip covers. I saw a couple of dozen or so residents camped out in the lounge. Some were reading. Others were locked in debate over what vegetables would accompany the pot roast that night. A few simply gazed at nothing at all with a forlorn and vacant look. The scent of air freshener hung heavy, only just subduing that other odor sadly common to many seniors’ residences. I loitered in the lobby, surveying the scene and deciding on my approach. Evidently, I was too slow.

A grizzled, old man in a peach safari suit and a lavender, egg-encrusted tie looked me up and down a few times, wrestling with his memory. Finally, recognition dawned on his withered face. “Hey, it’s the doggy doo-doo diving champ!” he shouted. I glanced at the aging alliteration aficionado before taking in the rest of the room. All eyes turned to me. I saw heads nodding and smiles breaking. A wheelchair-ridden centenarian gave me a thumbs-up. I heard a smattering of applause that slowly gathered strength and culminated some time later in an osteoporotic, stooping ovation. I felt compelled to take a bow. When the commotion abated, the guy in the peach safari suit approached.

“I gotta tell you that was some performance this morning. After that horse of a dog dropped his load in the middle of the sidewalk, we were all gathered by the window there, waiting for some poor sap to step in it. We even had a pool going.”

What People are Saying About This

Mike Tanner

"Terry Fallis's novel has two things that kept me hooked: characters that I cared about and a story that made me want to find out what would happen next. And often, very often, there was a line that made me laugh aloud or think twice-sometimes at the same time."--(Mike Tanner, author of Acting the Giddy Goat)

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Best Laid Plans 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 15 reviews.
houlihan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Best Laid Plans richly deserves both the Leacock award and the position it assumed atop the Canada Reads pile this year. A great novel, filled with memorable characters and a wry humour that makes it easy to devour.I am less than thrilled with the illustration it provides of Canadian politics, not because it lays out an embarrassing and calculating group of power-hungry people all grasping to be in power for the sake of being in power, but instead because it feels like a bit of a glimpse behind the curtain confirming all of my worst fears about our Canadian political system. I can see why it would either make you wish to run for office, or make you glad you don't.Either way, I purchased the sequel online as soon as I closed the first. So far as I can see, our culture doesn't provide much higher praise for a book.
ontariofan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Absolutely the best novel I've read in a long time. Great characters, good story, witty and funny. Can't wait to read the sequel.
LynnB on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book. It is funny -- and I rarely laugh out loud when I'm reading, but I did several times.This is the story of Daniel, who has decided he's had enough of life as a political back-roomer. Just one more thing to do before he can leave his old life behind: find a Liberal candidate to run in a riding that's been Conservative forever. Which he does. Which doesn't work out as planned.Angus McLintock, the unlikely candidate, is a marvelous character; he's a misfit and an independent thinker without being a cliche. Great writing, very funny, and provides a glimpse of life inside politics.
lamour on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A friend recommended this book to me and I wish I could remember who that was for this was a great deal of fun to read. While it does paint a very bleak picture of our Federal politicians, there are those in the story who do try to do the right thing. It won the Stephen Leacock Award for Humour and it is well deserved.
gypsysmom on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is one of the books chosen for Canada Reads 2011 so I wanted to try to read it before the debates started. It has won the Stephen Leacock award for humour so I expected it to be funny. And it was. Not roll on the floor funny but amused snicker funny.The story is told from the point of view of a Liberal speech writer, Daniel Addison, who decides to pack in the political life and take up teaching English in University. Before he leaves though he is talked into finding a Liberal candidate for a strong Tory riding that is held by the popular Finance Minister. Everyone knows it's just a matter of time before the Prime Minister calls an election to try to get a majority government (does this sound familiar) so there's no time to dally. Daniel also has to find a place to live so he talks to Angus McClintock, curmudgeonly Scot and talented engingeering professor. Angus has a boat house with an apartment upstairs which Daniel is lucky enough to rent. When he goes to hand in his postdated rent cheques he also finds his Liberal candidate. Angus has been saddled with the job of teaching English to Engineering students and he'll do anything to get out of that, including letting his name stand for the Liberals. There are a few provisos the main one of which is that he must stand no chance of winning. Of course, Daniel feels perfectly confident in promising that. I don't think it's a spoiler to say that the title, taken from a Robbie Burns' poem which ends with "aft gang agley", is appropriate to this pact.I really liked the character of Angus. He's a recent widower and he misses his wife dreadfully. It's hard not to like a man who was that much in love with his wife. He's also a man of conviction and honour. We could use more people like him in Parliament. The other character I really liked is Muriel Parkinson, the woman who ran for the Liberals five straight times before refusing to be the sacrificial lamb again. She's feisty and optimistic and doesn't give in to the Parkinson's disease which has put her in a seniors' home.Other than that I thought the characters, especially the politicians, were more caricatures than realistic. And I thought there were times when Fallis dragged on a joke past its funny parts. I don't think this will win the Canada Reads competition but you never know. Maybe this is the year for a humourous book to win.
AJBraithwaite on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The story line was fairly predictable, but there were some real belly laughs in the text which meant that this didn't matter very much. The main characters were likeable and the political background was interesting without being overpowering. A fun read
Cecilturtle on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I'll admit, it's not the most intellectual book out here - but I don't think it had that pretension either. Light, funny and very Canadian, this book is a great read to discover the lighter side of politics, learn a bit more on the government's workings while enjoying a stroll through the streets of Ottawa and Cumberland-Prescott. Even though they don't evolve much, the characters are strong and well-established with quirks and personalities all to their won; the storyline is tight and - although perhaps naive - uplifting; and the decor, well... being an Ottawa resident, it was a real pleasure walking through my streets, even in the dead of winter!In my opinion, this book well deserves its acclaim!
baubie on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Combining humour with hard politics is not an easy feat. Fallis has accomplished this though in a witty, smart, enlightening book that many Canadians would enjoy. As an outsider to the house of commons, this inside look actually teaches a thing or two about how our government is run and keeps a tongue-in-cheek attitude towards the whole institution. The only downside was that I found the book slightly longer than it had to be and the diary entries at the end of each chapter provided little more than a summary of previous events. I thought Fallis could have used the diary entries to give a more direct look into the mind of Angus or used them only when they could add something important to Angus' inner thought process. At times I think they were added only because every other chapter already had one. This is a minor detraction though and I recommend this book to anyone interested in learning about Canadian politics and having a laugh at the same time.
bogdanno on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Plenty of fart jokes. The humor and the sentence construction was forced. Add to this the main subject of the book: politics and you will see why I couldn't finish the book.On the positive side-the author has an impressive vocabulary.
fiverivers on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Best Laid Plans, by Terry Fallis, is, in my opinion, a perfect novel, deserving of the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour, and of every accolade it receives. If you haven't yet read it you must, right now, rush out and purchase your very own copy; no, don't borrow one, buy your own because it will be a mainstay on your bookshelf for years to come.Now, it's best to understand it's not easy to make me laugh, and I'm also a very critical reader; despite that Terry had me laughing myself silly with the opening scene, to the point I couldn't speak and still break into spontaneous giggles when I think about it. And while that side-splitting humour toned down through the novel into a voice of wit and delightful absurdities, it remained an engaging read that produced explosions of giggles throughout.Terry's characters are endearing, real, deftly crafted, his plot tight and seamless, the ending the perfect bow on the perfect package. I'll never again think of Parliament Hill in quite the same manner. Well done, Terry! Bravo!
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Keevin80021 More than 1 year ago
I really picked up this book because it was the winner of the 2011 Canada Reads Competition. It is a very good read. I'm American, but I do hope Canada will pick up this book.
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