The Flying Troutmans by Miriam Toews
This review is different to the others. It is a series of answered questions because it was www.bookclubforum.co.uk’s reading book of the month.
Meet the Troutmans. Hattie is living in Paris, city of romance, but has just been dumped by her boyfriend. Min, her sister back in Canada, is going through a particularly dark period. And Min’s two kids, Logan and Thebes, are not talking and talking way too much, respectively. When Hattie receives a phone call from eleven-year-old Thebes, begging her to return to Canada, she arrives home to find Min on her way to a psychiatric ward, and becomes responsible for her niece and nephew. Realising that she is way out of her league, Hattie hatches a plan to find the kids’ long-lost father. With only the most tenuous lead to go on, she piles Logan and Thebes into the family van, and they head south.
1) How did you find the style Toews used?
To be honest, I didn’t really like it. Like Kell said, I missed speech marks – proper punctuation can go a long way in my opinion. I have A Complicated Kindness on my shelf, and I remember that I put it down for that reason. However, I may pick it up again as I did get used to it.
I found she jumped around a lot – and some of it was just randomness. She remembered odd things which I didn’t find relevant, and she added in things that just seemed out of place – like Adam the junkie.
2) How did you find Hatty? Was she a credible, authentic character? Anything in particular struck out to you? How was she in the beginning? And in the end?
Erm, I felt sorry for her – getting dumped, having to struggle with having Min as a sister, and arriving when Min was going into hospital. I didn’t think she made wise choices however. She seemed to lack control. The kids are messed up, and she just left them like that. Why couldn’t she make Thebes wash for example. And at the end when she leaves Logan with his Dad – is that her decision to make? I also found her a bit self-absorbed. It seemed like she found their journey such a hardship – she kept thinking about how she could be in Paris. I felt I wanted to tell her to shut up because she made the decision to take a road trip.
3) How did the beginning (Hatty returning to her sisters family, everything there) make you feel? What thoughts did it bring up?
I was pleased she returned to them, but were her motives self-less? I don’t think so. She had just been dumped, what was left for her in Paris? She ran away to Paris, and that is not usually a solution, you have to face up to life, and I think that was she was doing.
I found her decision for a road trip reckless. And not telling the schools what was going on. I felt she could have had help, but was too focussed on herself to get it.
4) What do you think the “flying” refers to in the title? Why are they the Flying Troutmans?
Could it be as simple as the road trip? Or could it be that they are all away with the fairies. All of them seem absorbed in their own tangles, yet all connected through Min. Flying could be escapism – they all seem to want to escape the life they are living.
5) What was Hattie and Min’s relationship like?
Not good in my opinion. Min was unstable, leaving Hattie to fear for her life, Min’s life, and what is going to happen. Min was not a good older sister, but her problem was Hattie. I didn’t really get why she was the problem, but I felt that even what Min was well, her heart wasn’t in looking after Hattie. She no longer had attention so acted out I guess and that affected Hattie in a bad way.
6) What about the other sibling pair, Logan and Thebes?
I think their relationship is opposite to Min and Hattie. Although they fought and both were struggling with demons left by their Mum but they looked out for each other. I felt Logan was scared of pushing Thebes over the edge. When he disappeared and left her in a state he did anything to get her happy again – I think that fear was underlying in their relationship, but that had a good outcome, it made them close and look out for each other.
7) Why is it important that Hattie and Min’s dad was dead, or was it? What about the events surrounding his death? Why do you think Toews went with that line of story?
Their Dad was an anchor I think, always looking out for them – for example when Min jumped off the pier and he jumped in after her. I think that not having him around affected the girls, Min especially as it meant she could go off the rails more. And also he wasn’t the one who was suppose to die – Hattie was. That could lead to more resentment and extreme behaviour in Min. We also read about Hattie and her swimming coach – she acted out too and having her father around might have prevented that.
8) Anything else you’d like to bring up?
Like the others, I liked Thebes randomness too. I thought it fitted nicely into the story as there were many random parts and episodes in the book.
I thought it was very quick to read, and it wasn’t a difficult read once I got used to the lack of punctuation.
I thought she left the story open though. We don’t know what happened to Min; we never find out why Thebes wished she hadn’t been born or how bad the self-harming was. I found the book inconclusive really.
I would probably rate this book as 7/10 – not really bad but not amazing either.