Title: The Flying Troutmans
Author: Miriam Toews
Genre: Literary Fiction
Number of Pages: 274
Following her older sister’s latest mental breakdown, Hattie comes over to support her niece and nephew. Thebes is an eccentric individualist who speaks in awkward hip-hop lingo, Logan is a moody loner who creates morbid art and escapes for middle-of-the-night basketball sessions. Hattie takes both of them on a road trip to find their dad, hoping he’ll be up for taking care of them while her sister’s at a mental hospital. However, she doesn’t expect to bond with the kids as much as she does or to begin to deeply assume responsibility for them.
This is one of those novels where the characters run the risk of being too ‘quirky,’ Thebes in particularly strained credulity at times with her extreme precocity. However, the characters soon won me over with all their flaws and foibles, and I enjoyed the rapid-fire oddball dialogue. I had some trouble figuring Hattie out, and even though she’s well-intentioned her exaggerated negligence made me at uncomfortable at times.
This is the second book I’ve read this month about a troubled family on a road trip, and I particularly liked all the offbeat people they meet on their journey and how casual everybody is about all the craziness. Even though it contains some dark subject matter about mental illness and suicide (Logan and Thebes’ mom seems to have a severe form of Bipolar disorder,) the overall tone of the book certainly isn’t bleak. It doesn’t offer any pat solutions for the serious issues it addresses, the wry humor and strong relationships between the characters make it more bittersweet than depressing.