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Miriam Toews: The Flying Troutmans

abstract:New out in paperback this month, Miriam Toews fourth novel, The Flying Troutmans (Vintage, June 2009) follows along the authorís well-worn path of funny-sad books about misfits who experience loss and misfortune, but somehow manage to deal with it. It is the story of two sisters, one functional, and the other eccentrically dysfunctional. All their lives the younger sister, Hattie has lived a mix of awe and dread for what spectacle or catastrophe her older sibling, Min would concoct that would either embarrass or frighten her. When Min carries the behavior over into adulthood and relinquishes her hold on life and motherhood to a paralysing depression that requires hospitalization, Hattie returns home to look after her sisterís two kids aged 14 and 11. Logan is a confused pubescent basketball-obsessed young man who writes precocious rants and his younger sister Thebes is a savant eccentric with purple hair, appalling hygiene and a penchant for quoting the dictionary and doing crafts like making giant novelty checks. Instead of facing their pathetic domestic non-routine with the spectre of their motherís illness hanging over the household, Hattie packs the kids up for a road trip through the United States under the auspices of finding their long lost father whoíd been driven out by their mother years earlier. What ensues is a poignant journey of discovery with frequent laugh-out-loud moments as they establish their fundamental bond and accept each otherís insecurities, deficiencies, and quirks. Ultimately they connect through their abiding love for Min. For anyone who doubts that an awesome road trip can't help but connect people, this book is for you. The insights into US-Canadian quirks is bonus.


June 18, 2009
Miriam Toews has been nominated and awarded several Canadian prizes for her previous three novels including the Governor General, the Rogerís Writerís Trust Prize, the Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour and a nomination for the Giller Prize. Swing Low the story of her fatherís bipolar disorder told through his own voice explains the authorís understanding of mental illness and suicide. A Complicated Kindness reveals the subculture of Mennonites living in Manitoba, where Toews describes what itís like to live as a vulnerable teenager striving to fit in while under the codes and morals of religious fundamentalists who operate as a fringe society. A Complicated Kindness was the 2007 Canada Reads selection.

What distinguishes Miriamís writing is her ability to create characters that reflect all the eccentricities and messed-up aspects of their lives and make the reader want to follow them for two hundred and some-odd pages to end of the book. Itís as though she has observed every nuance in the people around her, and distilled them into a toxic-sweet moonshine that has the reader sipping, cursing and finally praising her creative home-brew as if to say, ďYes this is real, these people suffer from real emotions and situations beyond their control or perhaps of their own doing, and they manage to sort some of the things out and come to an equilibrium.Ē In the end, it is a wacky uplifting ride.

Miriam Toews lives in Winnipeg Manitoba with her husband and three grown children. Educated the University of Manitoba and the University of King's College in Halifax she made her screen debut in the Mexican film Luz silenciosa directed by Carlos Reygadas, which screened at the Cannes Film Festival. She was nominated for Best Actress at Mexico's Ariel Awards for her performance in the film.

Flying Troutmans, Kindle edition (This book is not yet available online in softcover in the US.) Go to this link for all other country/versions shopping.



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