The Flying Troutmans

The Flying Troutmans

by Miriam Toews

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781582435312
Publisher: Counterpoint Press
Publication date: 09/15/2009
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 1,133,825
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Miriam Toews is the author of three previous novels: Summer of My Amazing Luck; A Boy of Good Breeding and A Complicated Kindness (winner of the 2004 Governor’s General Award for fiction) and one work of non-fiction: Swing Low: A Life. She lives in Winnipeg.

Read an Excerpt

one

yeah, so things have fallen apart. A few weeks ago I got a collect call from my niece, Thebes, in the middle of the night, asking me to please come back to help with Min. She told me she’d been trying to take care of things but it wasn’t working any more. Min was stranded in her bed, hooked on blue torpedoes and convinced that a million silver cars were closing in on her (I didn’t know what Thebes meant either), Logan was in trouble at school, something about the disturbing stories he was writing, Thebes was pretending to be Min on the phone with his principal, the house was crumbling around them, the back screen door had blown off in the wind, a family of aggressive mice was living behind the piano, the neighbours were pissed off because of hatchets being thrown into their yard at all hours (again, confusing, something to do with Logan) . . . basically, things were out of control. And Thebes is only ­eleven.

I told her I’d be there as soon as I could. I had no choice. There was no question. Our parents are dead. Min didn’t have anybody else. And in just about every meaningful way, neither did I. Admittedly, I would have preferred to keep roaming around Paris pretending to be an artist with my moody, ­adjective-­hating boyfriend, Marc, but he was heading off to an ashram in India anyway and said we could communicate telepathically. I tried it a couple of days before he left. I love you, don’t go, I said silently, without moving my lips. He was standing next to me, trying to photograph a gargoyle. You’re a little in my way, he said. Can you move? No amount of telepathy worked with him, but maybe you have to be thousands of miles away from someone in order for your thoughts to work up the speed and velocity required to hit their ­target.

At the airport, Thebes came running over to me dressed entirely in royal blue terry cloth, short shorts and cropped top, and covered in some kind of candy necklace powder. The empty elastic was still around her throat. Or maybe she wore that thing all the time. She had fake tattoos all over her arms and her hair was intense purple, matted and wild, and she melted into me when I put my arms around her and tried to lift her off the ­ground.

Hey, you crazy kid, I said. How are you? She couldn’t talk because she was crying too hard. How are you, Thebie? I asked again. How are things? I didn’t have to ask her. I had a pretty good idea. I let her wrap herself around me and then I carried her over to a plastic airport chair, sat down with her sprawled in my lap, all arms and legs, like a baby giraffe, and let her cry.

How’s the songwriting going? I finally whispered in her ear. I really liked that line . . . take a verse, Mojo . . . you know? I said. She was always ­e-­mailing me her lyrics and cc’ing David Geffen on ­them.

She frowned. She wiped the snot off her face with the back of her hand, then onto her shorts. I’m more into martial arts now, and ­yo-­yoing, she said. I need to get out of my ­head.

Yeah, I said. Using your kung fu powers for ­good?

Well, she said, I feel good when I flip ­people.

Hey, I said, where’s your ­brother?

She told me he was outside waiting in the van because he didn’t know how to work the parking and also he didn’t actually have his driver’s licence, only his learner’s, he’s fifteen, he’s all jacked up on rebellion and whatever, he just wanted to wait in the van and listen to his ­music.

We headed for the exit and kind of stumbled around, falling over each other. Thebes kept her arm wrapped around my waist and tried to help me with my bag. All I had was one large backpack. I didn’t know how long I’d be staying but it didn’t really matter anyway. I’d lost my boyfriend and didn’t care about my job and there was no reason to go back to Paris. I didn’t own anything besides books, and Marc could keep those if he wanted ­to.

It was sunny and warm and the sky was a sharp, cartoony blue compared to the wet clay skies of Paris, and there was Logan sitting in their ­beat-­up van staring straight ahead at something, not us, music blasting from inside, like the van was a giant Marshall amp. Thebes ran up to the van and threw herself against the windshield. Logan snapped out of his rock ’n’ roll reverie for a second and smiled. Then he got out of the van and walked, glided, over to me and gave me a big hug with one arm and asked me how it was ­going.

All right, I said, how about ­you?

Mmmm, he said. He ­shrugged.

Hey, what’s this? I asked him. I grabbed his arm and squeezed his ­bicep.

Yeah, right, said ­Thebes.

And, dude, your pants! I said. Did you steal them from Andre the Giant? I snapped the elastic band on his boxers. Logan opened the door to the van and threw my stuff ­in.

How was Paris? he ­asked.

What? I ­said. Oh, Paris?

Yeah, he said. How was ­it?

Thebes turned down the volume on the music. Then she told me I should drive instead of Logan. She said she’d been planning her funeral on the way ­there.

I got dumped, I ­said.

No way! said ­Logan.

Well, yeah, I ­said.

You can’t get dumped in Paris, said Logan. Isn’t it supposed to be all–
By a guy or a girl? asked ­Thebes.

A guy, I ­said.

Logan stared hard at Thebes for a few seconds. He said you were gay, she ­said.

No I didn’t, said ­Logan.

You totally did! said ­Thebes.

Okay, Thebes, listen, said Logan. I didn’t–

Hey, I said. It’s okay. It really doesn’t matter. Really. But it was a ­guy.

But you’re not that old, said Thebes, right? You can still find someone if you look hard. How old are ­you?
Twenty-­eight, I ­said.

Okay, ­twenty-­eight, she said. She thought for a second. You have like two years, she said. Maybe you should dress up more, ­though.

Logan ended up driving back to their house because I didn’t know how to tell him not to and because he hadn’t seemed interested in relinquishing control of the wheel anyway. Logan and Thebes yelled at each other all the way back, the music cranked the whole ­time.

Thebes: Stay in your lane, moron!

Logan: Don’t lose your fucking shit, man!

Thebes: I don’t want to die, loser! Use two hands!

Logan: Do NOT grab the steering wheel!

Then Thebes went into this strange kind of commentary thing she does, quoting the imaginary people in her head. This time it was a funeral director, I think. She said: With an impact this severe there is not a hope of reconstructing this kid’s face. She banged the back window with her ­fist.

What was that? I asked ­her.

The lid of my coffin slamming down, she said. Closed casket. I’ll be unrecognizable ­anyway.
It was great to see the kids again. They’d changed a bit, especially Logan. He was a young man now, not a child. More on his mind, maybe, but with less compulsion to share it. Thebes was more manic than the last time I’d seen her. I knew what that was about. It’s hard not to get a little hysterical when you’re trying desperately to keep somebody you love alive, especially when the person you’re trying to save is ambivalent about being saved. Thebes reminded me of myself when I was her age, rushing home from school ahead of Min so I could create the right vibe, a mood of happiness and fun that would sustain her for another day, or so I thought. I’d mentally rehearse what I thought were amusing anecdotes to entertain her, make her laugh. I didn’t know then that all my ridiculous efforts only brought her further down. Sometimes she would laugh or applaud ­half-­heartedly, but it was always with an expression that said, yeah, whatever, Hattie, nice try, but everything is ­bullshit.

––

My birth triggered a seismic shift in my sister’s life. The day I was born she put her dress on backwards and ran away towards a brighter future, or possibly towards a brighter past. Our parents found her in a tree next door. Had she been planning to jump? She’s been doing that ever since, travelling in two opposite directions at once, towards infancy and death. I don’t know exactly what it was about me. By all accounts before I existed Min was a normal little girl, normal enough. She could pick a direction and stick with it. Our family photo albums are filled, halfway, with shots of Min laughing and smiling and enjoying life. And then, suddenly, I’m in the picture and Min’s joy evaporates. I’ve spent hours staring at those photos trying to understand my sister. Even in the ones in which I don’t appear it’s easy to see by Min’s expression that I am just beyond the lens, somewhere nearby.

Min’s had good days, some inexplicable breaks from the madness, periods of time where she functions beautifully and life is as smooth as glass, almost. The thing I remember most clearly about Cherkis, Thebes’s and Logan’s dad, is how nuts he was about Min and how excited he’d get when Min was on the ­up-­and-­up, taking care of business and acting normal. I liked that about him, but it also broke my heart because he had no idea of the amount of shit that was about to fly. Eventually, though, he did come to understand, and he did what I did, and what so many others in her life have ­done.

He ­left.

Min had a vague notion of where he’d gone. At first it was Tokyo, about as far away as you can get from here without being on your way back. He moved around the Pacific Rim, and then Europe for a while, South America, and then South Dakota. He’d call sometimes to see how the kids were doing, how Min was doing, if she wanted him to come back. No, she didn’t, she said, every time. And if he tried to take the kids she’d kill herself for real. We didn’t know whether this was a bluff or not, but nobody wanted to challenge it. They were all she had, she told him. Cherkis wasn’t the type of guy to hire a lawyer and fight for custody. He told Min he’d wait until the kids were old enough to decide for themselves and take things from there. He didn’t want to rock Min’s boat. He didn’t want anybody getting ­hurt.

I moved to Paris, fled Min’s dark planet for the City of Lights. I didn’t want to leave her and the kids but the truth is she scared me and I thought she might be better off without me, too. Especially if I was the embodiment of her particular anguish. It had been hard to know whether to stay or go.

It’s impossible to move through the stages of grief when a person is both dead and alive, the way Min is. It’s like she’s living permanently in an airport terminal, moving from one departure lounge to another but never getting on a plane. Sometimes I tell myself that I’d do anything for Min. That I’d do whatever was necessary for her to be happy. Except that I’m not entirely sure what that would ­be.

So the next best thing to being dead was being far away, at least as far as Paris. I had a boyfriend, Marc, and a job in a bookstore, and occasionally I’d go home, back to Manitoba, to Min and Thebes and Logan, for Christmas or the odd birthday, or to help with Min if she was in a really bad patch, but of course that was complicated because I never knew whether I should be there or ­not.

I wanted to be an artist, in Paris, or a psychiatrist. Sometimes I’d haul a giant pad of sketch paper and some charcoal pencils to the square in front of the Louvre or wherever the tourists were and I’d offer to sketch them for free. I didn’t feel right about charging anybody, because I wasn’t really doing a good job. In every sketch, it didn’t matter if I was drawing the face of a man or a woman or a kid, I’d include a detail from Min’s face, from what I could remember at that precise moment. Sometimes it was the shape of her eyebrows, or her wide lips, or a constellation of tiny freckles, or even just a shadow beneath the cheekbone. The people I sketched were always slightly confused and disappointed when I showed them my work, I could tell, but most of them were kind, especially because I didn’t expect any ­payment.

Our father died in a drowning accident in Acapulco when Min and I were kids. He drowned trying to save us. We’d been racing and had swum out farther than we should have and Min had started panicking, screaming for help. The current was strong and we couldn’t get back to the shore no matter how hard we pushed against the water. I remember yelling at Min to move sideways and to let go of me. After that, my memory of events is blurry. I have a feeling that Min was pushing me down, under water. I think that I remember her hand on my head, or on my shoulder, but maybe I’m wrong. Our mother told us that Dad had heard our screams and had swum out to get us, but that he too had got caught in the undertow and disappeared. They said it was a riptide. Other people on the beach eventually grabbed a boat from somewhere and rescued us, but by then Dad was gone. Min was fifteen and I was nine. They left us lying in the sun on the beach, crying and vomiting up salt water, while they searched for ­him.

Reading Group Guide

1. What is the significance of the novel’s title? How did it strike you before reading the book, and then afterwards?

2. What is your favourite part of The Flying Troutmans? Is it also the funniest part?

3. To what extent is Hattie looking for something, as opposed to running away from things?

4. Discuss the portrayal of mental illness in The Flying Troutmans.

5. If you have read any other novels by Miriam Toews, how do they compare to The Flying Troutmans?

6. Who is your favourite character in the novel, and why?

7. When Min whispers to Hattie from her hospital bed, what is she asking her to do?

8. Consider the importance of one or more of the following in the book: marriage, music, siblings, community, depression, family, death, basketball, love, children, loss, eccentricity, acceptance, adolescence . . . or choose a subject of your own.

9. How do Hattie’s feelings about Min change over the course of the novel?

10. How does Miriam Toews interweave the past and present in The Flying Troutmans, and to what purpose?

11. What are your thoughts on Hattie’s ex-boyfriend, Marc?

12. About Min:

“In the world of children, Min was a genius, she could navigate it in her sleep. She could read book after book to them, sing song after song, soothe them for hours, tenderly and humorously cajole them out of the tantrums, build cities and empires with them in the sandbox for an entire day and answer a million questions in a row without ever losing her cool. She had conceived them, given birth to them and nursed them into life. But out there, in that other world, she was continually crashing into things.”(p.175)

How does this passage add to your sense of Min? Is it typical, or unusual? Does it tell us something important about Hattie?

13. About Thebes:

“Thebes had found a soulmate in this homicidal cosmonaut. Impeccably, somberly united in their mutual, impossible longing to live in places that weren’t real, they high-fived and punched and slapped and then gazed for a while out the window at the real world, the one they’d had it with.” (p.195)

How does this description enhance or alter your sense of Thebes’ personality?

14. Logan on Min:

“Even when she gets better, he said, it’s for like three days or maybe a week and then it’s over, she gives up, it’s just so . . . I think Thebes and I are on our own.”(p.229)

How is this comment important to the book, and to understanding Logan? Do you think it’s true?

15. The novel begins, “Yeah, so things have fallen apart.” Are they back together again by the end of the book, or not? Did the ending come as a surprise to you?

16. Are you recommending The Flying Troutmans to friends? Why, or why not?

Foreword

1. What is the significance of the novel’s title? How did it strike you before reading the book, and then afterwards?

2. What is your favourite part of The Flying Troutmans? Is it also the funniest part?

3. To what extent is Hattie looking for something, as opposed to running away from things?

4. Discuss the portrayal of mental illness in The Flying Troutmans.

5. If you have read any other novels by Miriam Toews, how do they compare to The Flying Troutmans?

6. Who is your favourite character in the novel, and why?

7. When Min whispers to Hattie from her hospital bed, what is she asking her to do?

8. Consider the importance of one or more of the following in the book: marriage, music, siblings, community, depression, family, death, basketball, love, children, loss, eccentricity, acceptance, adolescence . . . or choose a subject of your own.

9. How do Hattie’s feelings about Min change over the course of the novel?

10. How does Miriam Toews interweave the past and present in The Flying Troutmans, and to what purpose?

11. What are your thoughts on Hattie’s ex-boyfriend, Marc?

12. About Min:

“In the world of children, Min was a genius, she could navigate it in her sleep. She could read book after book to them, sing song after song, soothe them for hours, tenderly and humorously cajole them out of the tantrums, build cities and empires with them in the sandbox for an entire day and answer a million questions in a row without ever losing her cool. She had conceived them, given birth to them and nursed them into life. But out there, in that other world, shewas continually crashing into things.”(p.175)

How does this passage add to your sense of Min? Is it typical, or unusual? Does it tell us something important about Hattie?

13. About Thebes:

“Thebes had found a soulmate in this homicidal cosmonaut. Impeccably, somberly united in their mutual, impossible longing to live in places that weren’t real, they high-fived and punched and slapped and then gazed for a while out the window at the real world, the one they’d had it with.” (p.195)

How does this description enhance or alter your sense of Thebes’ personality?

14. Logan on Min:

“Even when she gets better, he said, it’s for like three days or maybe a week and then it’s over, she gives up, it’s just so . . . I think Thebes and I are on our own.”(p.229)

How is this comment important to the book, and to understanding Logan? Do you think it’s true?

15. The novel begins, “Yeah, so things have fallen apart.” Are they back together again by the end of the book, or not? Did the ending come as a surprise to you?

16. Are you recommending The Flying Troutmans to friends? Why, or why not?

Customer Reviews

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The Flying Troutmans 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 34 reviews.
donnareads911 More than 1 year ago
What a family disaster! From a certifiable mom, kids left to their own devices and once the mom decides to allow herself to try to die via starvation, her sister zooms in to save the kids, but really? Taking them out of their native country? Letting an unlicensed 15 year old drive? No rules? Even to personal cleanliness? And that's just the surface! Remarkable? Yes, but mostly so for no one being arrested for child abandonment or neglect!
CatieN on LibraryThing 24 days ago
Hattie Troutman spent a inordinate amount of her youth either trying to save her older sister Min or being afraid of her. Hattie finally escaped to Paris and left Min behind with her two kids, Logan, 15, and Thebes, 11. That is, until she gets a phone call from Thebes begging for help and returns to Manitoba, Canada, to take care of, once again, Min and the kids. From there, Hattie sets out on an amazing road trip across the western United States in search of the kids' father who she believes is the one to help the kids, not her. Along the way -- and it is definitely an exciting ride -- Hattie, Logan, and Thebes all learn a lot about themselves and their personal strength. Great book. Loved the characters and their journey.
Jaylia3 on LibraryThing 24 days ago
This is the first book by Miriam Toews I read and it made me seek out others by her. She has an unusual, almost conversational style that really pulled me into the story. Plus, I loved the oddball family members on a road trip setting. I stayed up too late far to many nights.
elissajanine on LibraryThing 24 days ago
I loved this book! The main character was so complex and quirky, the interplay among Hattie, Thebes (my favorite!), and Logan is so perfect, and the ending so satisfying. A beautiful, funny, deep book that had me giggling while I was crying. Nice.
karynwhite on LibraryThing 24 days ago
An enjoyable, quick read. Laugh out loud funny in places. No great brain strainer, but a good weekend or holiday read about a somewhat dysfunctional family on a roadtrip through the US. The two teenagers are very funny characters.
djfifitrix on LibraryThing 24 days ago
I really enjoyed this book, there were some very touching and laugh out loud moments, but also some very awkward moments that make you cringe a little. The characters, although very kooky and quirky, were quite believable, and reminded me so much of a combination of a number of characters from other books/films/tv shows. I found myself having a love/not-quite-hate relationship with some of the three/four main characters. Min, the mother is hospitalised after another mental breakdown, and her sister Hattie returns from Paris to take care of Min's two children, Logan and Thebes - the latter being the most wonderful, kooky and extremely bizarre but cute little sister. Each character has their own quirks and personal issues, that work their way to the surface during the course of a road trip that Hatties takes them on in order to track down the childrens' absent father. You can't help but think these issues are all the result of their relationship with Min. I would love to see this made into a film. It has been compared to Little Miss Sunshine (which I haven't seen but know the basic story of) but would be totally different in content and character. The only let down was the ending, it just seemed to end abruptly and leave you wondering what happens to Min after finding out she discharged herself form hospital. All in all, I enjoyed the book, the characters and especially the dialogue. Will no doubt read again, and lend out to those I think will like it.
eheinlen on LibraryThing 24 days ago
I honestly don't know what to say about this book. It was...odd to say the least. It doesn't read like any other book that I've ever read and I'm still not sure whether that's a good thing or a bad thing. The characters and situations were very realistic, but it's the writing style I'm just not sure of. It was almost like the story was being recounted instead of told. Nothing seemed to be direct quotes or statements. It all appeared to be retold after the fact. I don't know. It was just odd.
SqueakyChu on LibraryThing 24 days ago
Sadly, Min, Hattie¿s sister, has to be hospitalized due a mental breakdown. From France, Hattie flies home to Canada to be with Min¿s son and daughter so they would not be left alone. Not wanting to be the sole caregiver for her nephew and niece, Hattie hatches a plot to return the youngsters to their father, or so she thought.This is an absolutely delightful read. It¿s written in youngster-speak, but so intelligently and with such dry humor, that I¿d love to jump into some of the conversations that go on in this book. By the end of the story, I really fell in love with the two kids under Hattie¿s care.This novel explores family relationships and obligations. It looks at those things we do willingly and, at other things, not so willingly. It also explores the challenges and rewards of taking an active part in family life when things get especially tough. I like that this book is by a Canadian writer. I¿m especially glad that that it¿s book worthwhile reading and one which makes me want to read more from this author. I would recommend it both for teens and adults as the subject matter spans both ages and is certainly entertaining enough for both.
kristenn on LibraryThing 24 days ago
I read this reluctantly. I received it via an indie-book-of-the-month club rather than deliberately. The only thing I tend to dislike more than stories about dysfunctional families is stories about eccentric ones. And I especially dislike eccentric children. Also, I didn't enjoy Little Miss Sunshine, although I never doubted that was coincidence. All that said, I did not dislike this book. It was well-written. Still not my taste, and I disliked Thebes all the way to the end, but the narrator and Logan (the teenager) were sympathetic and believable. The mother, unfortunately, was a classic artistic insane type, which always just feels gimmicky and was an unwelcome distraction.There was some successful humor and many thoughtful passages on family relationships and responsibilities. And I like how she ended it. It's a technique that some find unsatisfying but I felt it really worked, and I can't imagine what would have been an improvement. The source of the title was also touching. I did miss wherever the source of their unlimited travel funds were explained, so that nagged at me periodically.A couple favorite quotes:"...and what the hell can I offer that an ashram can't? I mean besides silence and solitude and spiritual revitalization.""I couldn't see him but I could hear him snoring softly, humming, like a little airplane lost in the clouds."
scofer on LibraryThing 24 days ago
The Flying Troutmans is quirky and lighthearted, despite the heavy premise of a family struggling with a family member's severe mental illness. Twenty-something Hattie rushes home from Paris to Manitoba to take care of her sister Min's 15 year old son and 11 year old daughter as Min has been institutionalized. Hattie's solution is to take the children out of school and head off on a road trip to try to find the children's long lost father. I will have to bring up the comparison to Little Miss Sunshine as well. I was just describing the book along the same lines to a friend, before seeing the same comment made in other reviews. The Flying Troutmans definitely has that same quirky family cross country roadtrip vibe to it. While I somewhat enjoyed the book (although not nearly as much as Little Miss Sunshine), I could not get over a few questions that kept nagging me. Why didn't Hattie try to track down the father with a few phone calls or even a google search before yanking her sister's children out of school and taking off across the United States? In this day and age, I could not get over the fact that neither Hattie nor the children own a cell phone and have to rely on pay phones. Really?? Why oh why will someone not force Thebes to bathe and clean her matted purple hair? And just how irresponsible is it to leave an 11 year old in a hotel room and cruise around town with potsmokers that you do not know? Hattie seems grounded at times, but makes irrational and irresponsible choices in others. I liked this book but did not love it.
mrstreme on LibraryThing 24 days ago
Imagine you¿re a 28-year-old women, facing a break-up with your Parisian boyfriend, and getting an urgent call from your mentally ill sister: Please come to Manitoba and take care of the kids. This was the case for young Hattie and the beginning of the family saga, The Flying Troutmans.Hattie was a good aunt but didn¿t have much maternal instinct. 15-year-old Logan was moody ¿ torn between wanting love and affection, and giving the world the finger. His sister, Thebes, was percocious, artistic and loveable. Together, they committed Min to a psychiatric hospital, climbed into their van and headed to South Dakota, then California, to search for the kids¿ father. Secretly, Hattie didn¿t think she could take care of the the kids and hoped that their father could help out.With the road as their guide, the three learned about each other. Hattie fumbled her way through managing Logan¿s moods and Thebes¿ constant talking. They collectively and privately worried about Min, who we learn more about through Hattie¿s childhood stories. On the surface, Hattie, Logan and Thebes seemed to be three distinct pieces; however, as the story ended, they learned their connection as family and love for Min was enough to hold them together. Miriam Toews carefully crafted a story that showed how family members live with a mentally ill family member, and her choice of dialogue and characters were spot on. As you get to know the characters, you start to care for them. Toews chose a very youthful narrative and dialogue style, and I wonder how The Flying Troutmans could impact a young adult audience. For any reader, this book was quick and quirky ¿ certainly not without flaws ¿ but if you love the proverbial family road trip story, then this is the book for you.
ForeignCircus on LibraryThing 24 days ago
This book was by turns funny and moving and tragic. The quirky character traits the children exhibit definitely spark a smile, but it is a sad smile as you realize why they were forced to develop these defense mechanisms. None of the adults in the books act actually like adults (most of the time) which is truly unfair to these children. Hattie is certainly not prepared to act as a parent; in their own way, Thebes and Logan are the most grown-up characters in the story.I thought that Min's mental illness was handled with sensitivity and accuracy, especially as it impacted the lives of those around her. I was also impressed with Hattie's character development as the novel progressed. This novel doesn't present any answers to the questions raised in the narrative- it is just a story of a family trying to cope the best way they can. Impressive and enjoyable read.
writergal85 on LibraryThing 24 days ago
Wonderful writer in top form in The Flying Troutmans. I need to read her other books. I loved this story Hattie who returns from Paris to take care of her 11-year-old niece and 15-year-old nephew when their mother, Min, gets admitted to the psychiatric ward, again. Hattie decides to take them from Canada down to California to their find their father. Through her thoughtful writing, word choices, descriptions and characterizations, Toews makes The Flying Troutmans simultaneously touching, amusing and thoroughly engaging.
kellyholmes on LibraryThing 24 days ago
I've found a new favorite writer, methinks. This is one of a string of books that all but destroyed my own will to write. But in a good way.This book is hilarious but also hits you where it counts. Here's a little taste, after the narrator Hattie has been picked up from the airport by her (underage) nephew Logan and niece Thebes:"Logan ended up driving back to their house because I didn't know how to tell him not to and because he hadn't seemed interested in relinquishing control of the wheel anyway. Logan and Thebes yelled at each other all the way back, the music cranked the whole time.Thebes: Stay in your lane, moron!Logan: Don't lose your f***ing sh**, man!Thebes: I don't want to die, loser! Use two hands!Logan: Do NOT grab the steering wheel!Then Thebes went into this strange kind of commentary thing she does, quoting the imaginary people in her head. The time it was a funeral director, I think. She said: With an impact this severe there is not a hope of reconstructing this kid's face. She banged the back window with her fist.What was that? I asked her.The lid of my coffin, slamming down, she said. Closed casket. I'll be unrecognizable anyway."Man, I loved those kids. They broke my heart and cracked me up at every turn.I will definitely be reading more by this author.
stonelaura on LibraryThing 24 days ago
Canadian author Miriam Toews specializes in dysfunctional family fiction and The Flying Troutmans certainly fits into that genre. When the story opens 15 year-old Logan and precocious 11 year-old Thebes (short for Theodora) are awaiting the arrival of their Aunt Hattie who has been called back from Paris to care for them while their unstable mother, Min, does some recuperating in the psychology ward. The book cover relates the tone of the story to the popular movie, Little Miss Sunshine, and the comparison is apt. At a bit of a loss as to how to handle the two creatively abstract relatives, Hattie decides to pile the children into the decrepit family van and conduct a road trip to search for the children¿s long estranged father. As Hattie recalls memories of her sister¿s volatile past she must deal with feelings of guilt and doubt. Each of Min¿s children also copes with their mother¿s instability in different ways. Logan acts out by cutting school and venting his frustration on public basketball courts. Thebes internalizes by never changing her clothing and creating inventive craft projects. While many of the scenarios tilt a bit beyond quirky into improbable, Toews¿ gift for creating heartfelt moments and sincere characters always redeems her stories.
taramatchi on LibraryThing 24 days ago
This book is a wild ride. A strange mix of sadness and hope. It had some pretty funny parts, but was not a comedy. It was a good story about the lives affected by someone with mental illness. The ending was not as I expected and kind of let me down, but I enjoyed the book for the most part.
catarina1 on LibraryThing 24 days ago
A poignant story about a quirky family. I came to know and love the main characters - Hattie, Thebes and Logan. With her sister, Min, in a psych ward, Hattie starts out on a trip in Aerostar van (which is leaking all sorts of liquids) with the two children (15 yo Logan and 11 yo Thebes) from Manitoba to the US to find the children's father, Cherkis, who had left years before. Along the way, we learn much about the two sisters and their intertwined relationship. Like all good "road" stories, there are stops and starts, many amusing characters who cross their path - all of which tell us more about this family. They end up at the Mexican border - "We pulled onto a narrow dirt road next to a bunch of tents pitched right up by the border and we all got out of the van, broken, cut, bleeding, bruised and filthy and armed with small, dull knives, toy pistols, concealed scalpels and a pit bull that somewhere along the way had lost its killer instinct. It's not Paris, said Logan." A wonderfully, enjoyable book - I look forward to reading more of Miriam Toews' books.
kellyn on LibraryThing 24 days ago
I read and loved two earlier books by Miriam Toews and yet when I finished The Flying Troutmans I felt deflated. Other reviewers liken this story to the movie Little Miss Sunshine (which I have not seen) and fault this book for telling a similar story without the movie¿s finesse. Individually the characters were engaging but the combination, especially in such close quarters, was exhausting and beyond credibility. Toews accurately conveys the devastating consequences of mental illness and grief; however it seems beyond comprehension that Min¿s family accepted her condition so offhandedly. Perhaps Toew¿s was trying to show lives of those so entirely marginalized in society as to be living in situations that defy description.
Meggo on LibraryThing 3 months ago
For some reason I thought this was a comedy. Imagine my surprise - and disappointment - when I read the book to discover it was a road trip story, involving an aunt, her niece and nephew (and by extension, their crazy sister/mother). Not a downer, exactly, but certainly not funny. Or lighthearted. A bit of a slog, frankly.
Scrat on LibraryThing 3 months ago
I came to this novel with equal amounts of enthusiasm (because I had previously read and laughed my way through A Boy of Good Breeding) and trepidation (because I had previously read and cried my way through A Complicated Kindness). Both sentiments were experienced as I read, laughed and cried my way through The Flying Troutsman. You may think that it is only the characters in this novel who are on a road trip but as a reader I found that I too was (thankfully) firmly buckled into their white knuckle emotional adventure. Once again Toews' genius for deftly painting the intricate contradictions inherent in human nature and motivation captivate the reader's attention from the very first words.
LynnB on LibraryThing 3 months ago
This is a road story. Hattie Troutman, having been dumped by her boyfriend, returns home to care for her sister, who suffers from mental illess, and for her sister's two children. When sister Min is hospialized, Hattie and the two children take off on a road trip (ultimately to California) in search of the children's father.Miriam Toews has written a great road story. And a great family story. With characters that are just the right balance between quirky and real to mak them memorable and sympthetic. Logan, at 15, is struggling with the usual teenaged angst, compounded by a missing father and feeling responsible for his fragile mother. Thebes, at 11, is wonderful! She, too, feels responsible for her mother. She also has an amazing amount of self-confidence. She is inspiring, in spite of the fact that she doesn't like to bathe, because of her creativity and generally positive outlook.This book ws easy to read -- almost too easy, because I wanted to savour so many moments in it. The dialogue was real -- everything in it rang true.
loosha on LibraryThing 3 months ago
Other reviewers have described this book admirably, so I'll stick to my personal reaction. I am no stranger to depression (my dad) and Min's story is heartwrenching. Somehow this book left me feeling ... well, relaxed in a way. So what if Thebe's hair is a mess. What really matters? Optimistic.
jyasinchuk on LibraryThing 3 months ago
Toews' follow-up to her critically acclaimed 'A Complicated Kindness' from 2004. Without question, eleven year-old character, Thebes, is one of the funniest, quirkiest characters I have encountered in literature in some time. Along with her Aunt Hattie (a woman fresh from a failed relationship) and Logan, Thebes' thirteen year-old brother the book is filled with entertaining conversations and observations as seen through the eyes of the three characters. Throughout their cross-country road trip, in search of the kids' father, there were several memorable parts. Unfortunately, I felt that I was unable to connect with the later parts of the novel, and Toews left many questions unanswered. Recommended for Grades 11 and up.
vickiz on LibraryThing 3 months ago
I laughed out loud numerous times as I sailed through this book, which is so compellingly easy to gobble up in one gulp. Somehow, Toews manages to make unbelievably snappy dialogue come out of the mouths of utterly believable and attractive, albeit damaged characters. As a complete reading experience, I think A Complicated Kindness was more cohesive and felt more finely crafted, but The Flying Troutmans is still a splendid book. (I was surprised that it was not longlisted for the Giller Prize.)
dawnlovesbooks on LibraryThing 3 months ago
i really enjoyed the quirky and electic characters in this book. hattie comes to take care of her neice and nephew when her sister is admitted to the mental hospital. i laughed at how well the author portrayed a 15 and 11 year old's thoughts and actions. delightful little book!