Synopses & Reviews
"Min was stranded in her bed, hooked on the 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 black 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 night (again, confusing, something to do with Logan) … basically, things were out of control. And Thebes is only eleven.
–from The Flying Troutmans
Days after being dumped by her boyfriend Marc in Paris – "he was heading off to an ashram and said we could communicate telepathically" – Hattie hears her sister Min has been checked into a psychiatric hospital, and finds herself flying back to Winnipeg to take care of Thebes and Logan, her niece and nephew. Not knowing what else to do, she loads the kids, a cooler, and a pile of CDs into their van and they set out on a road trip in search of the children's long-lost father, Cherkis.
In part because no one has any good idea where Cherkis is, the traveling matters more than the destination. On their wayward, eventful journey down to North Dakota and beyond, the Troutmans stay at scary motels, meet helpful hippies, and try to ignore the threatening noises coming from under the hood of their van. Eleven-year-old Thebes spends her time making huge novelty cheques with arts and crafts supplies in the back, and won't wash, no matter how wild and matted her purple hair gets; she forgot to pack any clothes. Four years older, Logan carves phrases like "Fear Yourself" into the dashboard, and repeatedly disappears in the middle of the night to play basketball; he's in love, he says, with New York Times columnist Deborah Solomon. Meanwhile, Min can't be reached at the hospital, and, more than once, Hattie calls Marc in tears.
But though it might seem like an escape from crisis into chaos, this journey is also desperately necessary, a chance for an accidental family to accept, understand or at least find their way through overwhelming times. From interwoven memories and scenes from the past, we learn much more about them: how Min got so sick, why Cherkis left home, why Hattie went to Paris, and what made Thebes and Logan who they are today.
In this completely captivating book, Miriam Toews has created some of the most engaging characters in Canadian literature: Hattie, Logan and Thebes are bewildered, hopeful, angry, and most of all, absolutely alive. Full of richly skewed, richly funny detail, The Flying Troutmans is a uniquely affecting novel.
From the Hardcover edition.
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.
From the Hardcover edition.
Reading Group Guide
1. What is the significance of the novels 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 Hatties 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 Hatties 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 werent real, they high-fived and punched and slapped and then gazed for a while out the window at the real world, the one theyd 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, its for like three days or maybe a week and then its over, she gives up, its 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 its 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?