Friday, January 16, 2009

The Flying Troutmans - Miriam Toews

This book was one of the submission for the Saroyan Prize - the contest I reviewed books for earlier in the year. I did not review this one, but it ended up being a finalist and I'm glad I remembered to add it to my "to-read" list. The Flying Troutmans is justifiably billed as a literary Little Miss Sunshine (I don't know if that movie was itself actually based on a book) - and features Hattie, home from a recent break-up in Paris, who finds that her unstable sister Min has been committed to a mental hospital. Hattie is left to care for Min's teenage son (obsessed with basketball and carving words with his knife into Hattie's dashboard) and pre-teen daughter (full of questions, a need for love, and a disdain for cleanliness). She decides to take them on a road trip in her van to California to find their long-lost father. The brilliance of this book lies in the interaction of the characters - the dialogue is hilarious, and Hattie's desire to protect the children, despite her inability to do so and their perceptive abilities, is touching and heartbreaking at the same time. This is a book that deals with serious family issues, but in a way that is real - with lots of humor to mask the pain and helplessness of the situation. It made me smile, laugh, and cry all at once. Definitely better than Cats.

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