The Flying Troutmans

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The Flying Troutmans

by Miriam Toews

Knopf Canada | June 2, 2009 | Trade Paperback |

3.9412 out of 5 rating. 17 Reviews
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"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.

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 288 Pages, 5.12 × 7.87 × 0.39 in

Published: June 2, 2009

Publisher: Knopf Canada

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0307397505

ISBN - 13: 9780307397508

Found in: Fiction and Literature

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– More About This Product –

The Flying Troutmans

The Flying Troutmans

by Miriam Toews

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 288 Pages, 5.12 × 7.87 × 0.39 in

Published: June 2, 2009

Publisher: Knopf Canada

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0307397505

ISBN - 13: 9780307397508

Read from the Book

one yeah, so things have fallen apart. A few weeks ago I got a collect call from my niece, Thebes, in the middle of the night, asking me to please come back to help with Min. She told me she’d been trying to take care of things but it wasn’t working any more. Min was stranded in her bed, hooked on 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 back 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 all hours (again, confusing, something to do with Logan) . . . basically, things were out of control. And Thebes is only ­eleven. I told her I’d be there as soon as I could. I had no choice. There was no question. Our parents are dead. Min didn’t have anybody else. And in just about every meaningful way, neither did I. Admittedly, I would have preferred to keep roaming around Paris pretending to be an artist with my moody, ­adjective-­hating boyfriend, Marc, but he was heading off to an ashram in India anyway and said we could communicate telepathically. I tried it a couple of days before he left. I love you, don’t go, I said silently
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From the Publisher

"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.

From the Jacket

"Toews's writing is a unique collision of sadness and humour. . . . The Flying Troutmans is a dark story but it is also a never-ending series of hilarious adventures."
- Ottawa Citizen

"Engaging, humorous, grim, and redemptive, this is essential reading."
- Library Journal

"It's darkly funny, bursting at the seams with quirky characters and off-kilter pop culture references that rival Douglas Coupland's for their incisive wit."
- The Vancouver Sun

"Toews may have invented a new genre, the romantic-depressive comedy, at which she excels."
- Toronto Star

"Toews has a terrific ability to capture the mix of irony and innocence in a smart child's mind. . . . She balances heartbreak with laugh-out-loud wit."
- Edmonton Journal

"Toews writes . . . in a high-energy original voice filled with love, fear, humour and originality. Miriam Toews is an extraordinarily gifted writer, one who writes with unsentimental compassion for her people and an honest understanding of their past, the tectonic shifts of their present and variables of their future."
-The Globe and Mail


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.

Editorial Reviews

"Toews's writing is a unique collision of sadness and humour. . . . The Flying Troutmans is a dark story but it is also a never-ending series of hilarious adventures."
- Ottawa Citizen

"Engaging, humorous, grim, and redemptive, this is essential reading."
- Library Journal

"It's darkly funny, bursting at the seams with quirky characters and off-kilter pop culture references that rival Douglas Coupland's for their incisive wit."
- The Vancouver Sun

"Toews may have invented a new genre, the romantic-depressive comedy, at which she excels."
- Toronto Star

"Toews has a terrific ability to capture the mix of irony and innocence in a smart child's mind. . . . She balances heartbreak with laugh-out-loud wit."
- Edmonton Journal

"Toews writes . . . in a high-energy original voice filled with love, fear, humour and originality. Miriam Toews is an extraordinarily gifted writer, one who writes with unsentimental compassion for her people and an honest understanding of their past, the tectonic shifts of their present and variables of their future."
-The Globe and Mail


From the Hardcover edition.

Bookclub Guide

1. What is the significance of the novel's 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 Hattie's 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 Hattie's 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 weren't real, they high-fived and punched and slapped and then gazed for a while out the window at the real world, the one they'd 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, it's for like three days or maybe a week and then it's over, she gives up, it's 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 it's 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?

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