The Flying Troutmans

Paperback | December 5, 2017

byMiriam Toews

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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.


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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 crumbl...

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.

other books by Miriam Toews

A Complicated Kindness
A Complicated Kindness

Paperback|May 1 2007

$19.81 online$19.95list price
All My Puny Sorrows
All My Puny Sorrows

Paperback|Feb 24 2015

$16.75 online$22.00list price(save 23%)
Irma Voth
Irma Voth

Hardcover|Apr 5 2011

$10.00 online$29.95list price(save 66%)
see all books by Miriam Toews
Format:PaperbackDimensions:224 pages, 8 × 5.19 × 0.68 inPublished:December 5, 2017Publisher:Knopf CanadaLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0307397513

ISBN - 13:9780307397515

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Customer Reviews of The Flying Troutmans

Reviews

Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing book Loved it !!! Miriam Toews, as always, manages to blend humour and serious life issues. Poverty, single motherhood and the limitations of a life on social assistance in an easy read. I had trouble putting the book down
Date published: 2015-07-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Flying Troutmans Just like Kenny Chesney says, the characters in this book are "a little messed up, but they're all alright". I fell in love with every single character.
Date published: 2015-01-06
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Not Quite There This book has great potential but somehow just misses the mark. I liked it well enough to finish it, but wouldn't recommend it. I think perhaps it was the ending that did me in - not believable, too quick, and disappointing.
Date published: 2011-06-28
Rated 3 out of 5 by from 3.5 stars, to be exact Toews' style, caustic and dry wit had me laughing out loud when describing mental illness and abandonment, two things that I would say are the least funny on my hilarity scale. Her quirky characters and their haphazard road trip often reminded me of Little Miss Sunshine, although the story lines were quite different in content. I'm not too convinced on the ending, as it seemed a bit offensive to my sensibilities, but the book was otherwise enjoyable enough for me to rate it fairly well, and look for more of Toews' work. www.booksnakereviews.blogspot.com
Date published: 2010-03-26
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Offbeat with Eccentric Characters Reason for Reading: The publisher's plot synopsis grabbed me right away. Summary: Hattie in Paris, who has just been dumped by her boyfriend, receives an urgent message from her niece in Manitoba to come home quickly. Hattie's sister Min is in a deep depression and needs to go into the hospital again and when Hattie arrives she finds the kids in a state. Teenage Logan retreats into his hoodie all the time, rarely speaks and the neighbors have a backyard full of hatchets. Thebes, on the other hand, does not stop talking, ever, and looks as if she hasn't changed clothes in a few weeks nor combed, let alone washed her hair in months. Hattie is totally not up to the job of looking after two children so she takes the children in the van on a road trip to the States to find their father whom Min chased out of their lives when they Logan was a toddler and Thebes newly born. With only the name of a place of where he was ten years ago they set off. Comments: What a wonderful, brilliant book! A humourous, heart-felt, sometimes poignant story of a family of the most quirky characters. This family is both dysfunctional and each member is suffering their own mental health problems but they are also lovable, unique and become accepted to the reader just the way they are. The only character I didn't connect with nor grow to like was Hattie, who was quite negligent with looking after the children and as a 32yo woman had no excuse for her behaviour except that she daydreamed about her ex-boyfriend back in Paris and hadn't looked after children before. I didn't buy it. However, the children and Min (who we get to know through Hattie's memories) were extremely outlandish yet totally believable characters. A great story that will have you chuckling, shaking your head and growing fonder of these two children the more you read. I really enjoyed this, my first foray into Toews, and I will be looking into her other work hoping to find the same quality of story. The book vaguely reminded me of the movie "Little Miss Sunshine" and I pictured Logan just as the teenage son in that movie. If you enjoy an offbeat story populated with eccentric characters this book will certainly fit the bill.
Date published: 2010-01-08
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Enjoyable read Even though this wasn't an "unputdownable" book for me, I still enjoyed it. It was a touching story, with some colorful characters and humorous dialogue throughout.
Date published: 2009-10-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Quirky, entertaining and slightly sad This book takes you on an interesting road trip through the States with the main character and her niece and nephew. Towes brilliantly demonstrates through the character interaction how people deal with certain traumatic events in their life. Aunt Hattie, at the age of 28, is not entirely mature enough to take on two young teens, but brilliantly manages to fuse broken relationships with them. Their road trip manages to bring the three 'misfits' close enough together that they do not want to depart. This is a great read about how families end up working in even the most despair of times. I couldn't put this down!
Date published: 2009-04-23
Rated 3 out of 5 by from It passes - but just barely This book, with a mentally ill person as the catalyst, exhibits schizoid traits of its own. My initial reaction: unconvincing and lazy. I didn’t think I’d say this about Toews, winner of the 2004 Governor General’s award for "A Complicated Kindness." "The Flying Troutmans" is my first Toews novel. Mild quibbles kept piling up. Flurries of minor quibbles turned into dumps of significant quibbles, completely snowing under the charm of the book. Toews uses the venerable road trip as a platform for the novel. Which is fine, some the best fiction is road-trip fiction. But she gives a really half-hearted try to explain why. So ditzy and stunningly immature 28-year-old Hattie, sullen wannabe punk 15-year-old Logan, and flaky, precocious Thebes pile into the aging Aerostar in search of Hattie’s sister’s ex-husband and father of Logan and Thebes. Hattie has fled Paris after hearing that psychotic, suicidal Min is in the psych ward and someone needs to care for Logan and Thebes. Logan and Thebes are neglected and emotionally damaged – but in a good way. They exhibit colourful and artistic behaviour, prone to doing wacky things on impulse. Which suits Hattie just fine, because she’s the same way. “Logan took out his knife and started carving in the dashboard again. I wasn’t going to try and stop him any more. I wanted to figure out what all his carvings meant. If the dashboard was his canvas, so be it.” Hattie Troutman, responsible guardian. I gave Toews a bit of latitude with her wildly inconsistent characterizations of the two children. My recent experience with teens and tweens is limited and I’m aware that many kids exhibit childish behaviour and remarkable adult insights. But the swings of Thebes just aren’t plausible to me, even allowing that her chatterbox style causes her to spout random thoughts unedited. Like many 11-year-olds, she plays sax in a ska band at school. She boasts a comprehensive knowledge of R-rated and old movies, yet rarely watches TV. Toews mentions a couple of times that “someone had written ‘Deborah Solomon, be my girlfriend’ in the thick layer of dust on the screen.” According to Wikipedia, “Deborah Solomon (born August 9, 1957) is a journalist and cultural critic with a weekly Q&A column in The New York Times Magazine.” Of course. Every tortured teen soul has a crush on her. At least the boy’s well read. Probably peruses the Times while listening to the Crucifucks on his Discman. (Toews gives us a list of edgy punk and rap acts on his CD.) A lot of hip kids seem to listen to iPods these days, but never mind. The whole novel feels like Toews has injected a list of interesting details that she has gleaned over time: 1) Logan practises his picks and rolls with his basketball. How do you do a pick and roll by yourself? In Toews’s hands, it sounds like he’s putting spin on the ball. 2) Min as a 15-year-old not only read "Quotations from Chairman Mao" but "The Anarchist Cookbook" as well. Really? She’s lulling on a beach in Acapulco reading recipes and instructions for the manufacture of explosives and phreaking devices? She doesn’t know exactly what they are, but they sound good. This is where the lazy tag comes in. She’s content skate by on her easy charm. Toews needs to do more than toss a random series of tics together. I know this is nitpicky, but the Troutmans were on the road “for hours” and they only got to Mexican Hat from Moab – it’s a short hop, maybe 30 km. Toews's little “facts” can confuse someone who was actually there. I think she likes the names of the towns. So a complete waste of time? No, around the mid-point Toews surprises me. Her description of a Winnipeg cold spell is sharply observed. It’s two very good paragraphs and this marks the turning point. Thebes dials down her zaniness a couple of notches, Logan’s cynical façade cracks a little, and Hattie ruminates about her past and her relationship with Min. Toews seemingly effortless prose gives us telling details of Min’s problems, something she neglected to do in her haste to get on the road. She articulates well the almost universal feeling of regret that haunts the mentally ill and addicted people. This is honest pain and emotion, never maudlin, simply and directly told. This is what won her the GG. In sum, the second half of the book is everything the first half is not. Toews redeems herself and earns a passing grade – but just barely.
Date published: 2009-03-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Glad I Read It This is the story of an aunt who takes her niece and nephew on a spontaneous road-trip to find their father. Brilliant Canadian author, Miriam Toews, managed to take a well-used storyline and turn it into a good read. Even when there are ridiculous circumstances her matter-of-fact writing makes them even more hilarious.
Date published: 2008-12-13
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A humourous and hopeful novel... When Hattie gets a frantic phone call from her eleven year old niece, Thebes, to “come quick”, Hattie leaves her life in Paris and flies home to Manitoba. “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. Thebes’s mother, Min, is Hattie’s older sister. Theirs is a complicated relationship fraught with sibling rivalry, of course, but also touched by Min’s mental illness. Their parents are almost non-existent in this story: we learn only of their father’s tragic death. Still, Hattie loves her niece and nephew- even though she hasn’t seen them in quite a while and even if she seems ill-equipped to care for them. What she decides to do is take them on a road trip to find their father- who has been out of the picture for several years. Hattie remembers him fondly and thinks he’d be the perfect person to care for the kids while their mother recovers in hospital. What follows is a road trip quite unlike any other as the Troutmas travel first south and then across country to California. These are damaged people: fragile and angry and resilient. As they make their way closer to the kids’ Dad, they form a bond built on trust and love. They’re kooky, no question, but they’re most definitely family. I read Toews’ novel 'A Complicated Kindness' a couple years ago- and really enjoyed it. I liked this even better. It was laugh-out-loud funny and the ending was full of hope and these characters, particularly Thebes, were some of the most enchanting (albeit nutty) people I’ve had the pleasure of spending time with in recent memory.
Date published: 2008-12-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Flying Troutmans One of the funniest books I have ever read. Min is a classic, made me laugh till I was in tears. If you grew up in a big family it will bring back the crazy memories of your own childhood. I have shared it with all my friends and have not gotten it back yet!!!
Date published: 2008-12-02
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Not a Book I Enjoyed A couple of years ago, I tried to read A Complicated Kindness by Mariam Towes. I didn’t enjoy it and it is one of a very few books that I did not finish. Many people who enjoy similar books to me loved A Complicated Kindness and I always wondered if I gave up on it too easily. Flash forward to today and I thought I would try again with her next novel, The Flying Troutmans. I’m sad to say that although I finished this book, I did not enjoy it. I did not find the characters likable, I wasn’t a fan of the writing style and I didn’t enjoy the story. There will be many who will love this book but I, a die-hard fan of Canadian authors, did not.
Date published: 2008-11-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Funny and Charming depsite a dark basis While I do pride myself on being a reader of Canadian literature, until recently I have never considered EVER picking up by Miriam Toews, and I regret that decision greatly. its essentailly a road-trip book where the characters are taken out of their normal element and allowed to flourish on the high way in the absence of the recently-institutionalized Mother/Sister character. Toews must draw from real life with her characters, as I know a pair of kids that mirror Logan and Thebes so well. Its eerie! Anyone picking up this one will find themselves laughing spontaneously on the subway, so be forewarned!
Date published: 2008-10-05
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Simply fine If, along the way, something is gained, then something will also be lost. Those words were emblazoned on Min's bedroom wall, burned into the wallpaer with a charred wine-bottle cork. Our parents dismissed them as psuedo-profound, angsty-adolescent babble, but they haunted me. Why should that be? I wondered. How did she know that? Did she really believe it, or did she just like the way those words looked in burnt cork? - from The Flying Troutmans Let's make an analogy between books and buildings. Some books, like some buildings, are mammoth in scope, appearance, and construction. You can smell the sweat of the author on the pages. You can see the mortar in the cracks. You stare at it, and are amazed. Infinite Jest. Against the Day. Underworld. Books that demand your attention not only for their overall quality, but for the effort as well. And there's nothing wrong with this. A well-built edifice can be a thing of beauty. Underworld is a spectacular skyscraper of a novel. But such monuments may serve to denigrate the 'simpler' buildings. Buildings of equal care and precision, and certainly of equal effort, as their more elaborate counterparts, but buildings that don't show off. Like a house that offers its residents a sense of peace and acceptance, obscuring the work that went into its construction. Or a book that quietly leads its readers along a journey, offering multitudes of pleasures, only upon reflection revealing the immense craft that went into its manufacture. Alice Munro is a grand master of such writing. And Miriam Toews is no slouch. Enter The Flying Troutmans, Toews' first release since her monstrously successful (and damned good) A Complicated Kindness. Like her previous output, the simplicity of Toews' writing belies the artistry which lies underneath. You enjoy the work, but she makes it appear so effortless that subconsciously you may not appreciate how artful an author Toews really is. It requires monumental skill to write in such a fashion that you don't notice the author's perspiration that undercoats every word. The linchpin of Toews' tale is Min, a manic-depressive who has undergone complete mental collapse. Picking up the pieces of Min's life is Hattie, Min's sister and Troutmans' narrator. Hattie had always watched over her older sister, but had taken the step of moving to Paris, fleeing "Min's dark planet for the City of Lights." Now, Hattie has had to return to care for Min's children; Thebes, an eleven-year-old daughter prone to speaking in gansta slang, and Logan, a fifiteen-year-old son unwillingly thrust into responsibility too soon. And before you can say "Hollywood road movie," she's loaded up the family and headed south in search of the children's long-absent father. As I rather dismissively wrote above, the trappings of The Flying Troutmans is a road trip, that classic staple of Hollywood quirk. It goes without saying that the reader will be reminded strongly of films such as Little Miss Sunshine and The Daytrippers, although it is quite unfair to simply lump Troutmans in as yet another 'weird family' road movie. The travelogue may have become co-opted and popularized by the cinema, but it has its roots in literature, and as Troutmans ably proves, there's life in the genre yet (alongside Michael Winter's recent triumph The Architects Are Here). A good road trip narrative understands that - and here comes another old reliable stand-by - it's not the destination that's important, but the journey. Toews' great strength as an artist is complete empathy for her characters, combined with a subtle wit and a genuine flair for imagery. Her narrative careens from past memories to current events with nary a misstep. Her tour of the American heartland is warm and funny, complete with reliable standbys such as people who confuse Manitoba with California, and the realization that the Grand Canyon is simply an enormous hole. In the end, it's simply a great story, wonderfully told. Sometimes, as we bounce around the post-modern world, we forget just how important and rare a skill that is.
Date published: 2008-09-30
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Another great story by Miriam Toews I took a road trip 3 years ago with my mom to London, Ontario (a road trip being the theme of The Flying Troutmans), to catch a flight to Winnipeg as my mom's traveling companion when she returned to attend her 50th Reunion since graduating nursing school. Some of her classmates told me about a local author acquiring some fame - Miriam Toews - the book they spoke of was A Complicated Kindness. Immediately curious, I borrowed a copy, devoured it in two days and was completely absorbed by the story. The Flying Troutmans has been equally engaging and has resonated with me even more than I could have imagined ... it evoked so many personal memories of the various family road trips I have taken these past 50 years and I am grateful to this author for re-awakening these images of memorable times past - some funny, some sad, some wonderful and some not so much. This book helped me travel through my long forgotten past and it was a great road trip!
Date published: 2008-09-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from "F-ing troutmans!!" After spending three years running away from her sister's family, Hattie Troutman finds she's drawn back to Canada after the revelation that her sister is being hospitalized. The sudden responsibility of caring for her niece and nefew leave her reeling and feeling frighteningly incompetent- thus prompting an impulsive road-trip in search of the kids' long lost father. As the trip gets under way, more and more of the family's sporadic and often tragic history is revealed, delivered with a tone of humble humour that helps enforce the reader's sense of an almost empathic fondness toward the struggling characters. I found Troutmans' to be a totally engrossing and utterly enjoyable read that left me feeling a little bit better about the so-called "dark times" of life. Enjoy!
Date published: 2008-09-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Better than ever Toews is in top form here, subtle, funny, insightful. Excellent book, should have been on Giller longlist!!
Date published: 2008-09-16
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Yet another Great Canadian Novel. Story of a family road-trip that will stay with you for many weeks after you've finished reading this novel. A very enjoyable read. Time well spent!
Date published: 2008-08-26

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Read from the Book

oneyeah, 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, without moving my lips. He was standing next to me, trying to photograph a gargoyle. You’re a little in my way, he said. Can you move? No amount of telepathy worked with him, but maybe you have to be thousands of miles away from someone in order for your thoughts to work up the speed and velocity required to hit their ­target.At the airport, Thebes came running over to me dressed entirely in royal blue terry cloth, short shorts and cropped top, and covered in some kind of candy necklace powder. The empty elastic was still around her throat. Or maybe she wore that thing all the time. She had fake tattoos all over her arms and her hair was intense purple, matted and wild, and she melted into me when I put my arms around her and tried to lift her off the ­ground.Hey, you crazy kid, I said. How are you? She couldn’t talk because she was crying too hard. How are you, Thebie? I asked again. How are things? I didn’t have to ask her. I had a pretty good idea. I let her wrap herself around me and then I carried her over to a plastic airport chair, sat down with her sprawled in my lap, all arms and legs, like a baby giraffe, and let her cry. How’s the songwriting going? I finally whispered in her ear. I really liked that line . . . take a verse, Mojo . . . you know? I said. She was always ­e-­mailing me her lyrics and cc’ing David Geffen on ­them.She frowned. She wiped the snot off her face with the back of her hand, then onto her shorts. I’m more into martial arts now, and ­yo-­yoing, she said. I need to get out of my ­head.Yeah, I said. Using your kung fu powers for ­good?Well, she said, I feel good when I flip ­people.Hey, I said, where’s your ­brother?She told me he was outside waiting in the van because he didn’t know how to work the parking and also he didn’t actually have his driver’s licence, only his learner’s, he’s fifteen, he’s all jacked up on rebellion and whatever, he just wanted to wait in the van and listen to his ­music.We headed for the exit and kind of stumbled around, falling over each other. Thebes kept her arm wrapped around my waist and tried to help me with my bag. All I had was one large backpack. I didn’t know how long I’d be staying but it didn’t really matter anyway. I’d lost my boyfriend and didn’t care about my job and there was no reason to go back to Paris. I didn’t own anything besides books, and Marc could keep those if he wanted ­to.It was sunny and warm and the sky was a sharp, cartoony blue compared to the wet clay skies of Paris, and there was Logan sitting in their ­beat-­up van staring straight ahead at something, not us, music blasting from inside, like the van was a giant Marshall amp. Thebes ran up to the van and threw herself against the windshield. Logan snapped out of his rock ’n’ roll reverie for a second and smiled. Then he got out of the van and walked, glided, over to me and gave me a big hug with one arm and asked me how it was ­going.All right, I said, how about ­you?Mmmm, he said. He ­shrugged.Hey, what’s this? I asked him. I grabbed his arm and squeezed his ­bicep.Yeah, right, said ­Thebes.And, dude, your pants! I said. Did you steal them from Andre the Giant? I snapped the elastic band on his boxers. Logan opened the door to the van and threw my stuff ­in.How was Paris? he ­asked.What? I ­said. Oh, Paris?Yeah, he said. How was ­it?Thebes turned down the volume on the music. Then she told me I should drive instead of Logan. She said she’d been planning her funeral on the way ­there.I got dumped, I ­said.No way! said ­Logan.Well, yeah, I ­said.You can’t get dumped in Paris, said Logan. Isn’t it supposed to be all–By a guy or a girl? asked ­Thebes.A guy, I ­said.Logan stared hard at Thebes for a few seconds. He said you were gay, she ­said.No I didn’t, said ­Logan.You totally did! said ­Thebes.Okay, Thebes, listen, said Logan. I didn’t–Hey, I said. It’s okay. It really doesn’t matter. Really. But it was a ­guy.But you’re not that old, said Thebes, right? You can still find someone if you look hard. How old are ­you?Twenty-­eight, I ­said.Okay, ­twenty-­eight, she said. She thought for a second. You have like two years, she said. Maybe you should dress up more, ­though.Logan ended up driving back to their house because I didn’t know how to tell him not to and because he hadn’t seemed interested in relinquishing control of the wheel anyway. Logan and Thebes yelled at each other all the way back, the music cranked the whole ­time.Thebes: Stay in your lane, moron!Logan: Don’t lose your fucking shit, man!Thebes: I don’t want to die, loser! Use two hands!Logan: Do NOT grab the steering wheel!Then Thebes went into this strange kind of commentary thing she does, quoting the imaginary people in her head. This time it was a funeral director, I think. She said: With an impact this severe there is not a hope of reconstructing this kid’s face. She banged the back window with her ­fist.What was that? I asked ­her.The lid of my coffin slamming down, she said. Closed casket. I’ll be unrecognizable ­anyway.It was great to see the kids again. They’d changed a bit, especially Logan. He was a young man now, not a child. More on his mind, maybe, but with less compulsion to share it. Thebes was more manic than the last time I’d seen her. I knew what that was about. It’s hard not to get a little hysterical when you’re trying desperately to keep somebody you love alive, especially when the person you’re trying to save is ambivalent about being saved. Thebes reminded me of myself when I was her age, rushing home from school ahead of Min so I could create the right vibe, a mood of happiness and fun that would sustain her for another day, or so I thought. I’d mentally rehearse what I thought were amusing anecdotes to entertain her, make her laugh. I didn’t know then that all my ridiculous efforts only brought her further down. Sometimes she would laugh or applaud ­half-­heartedly, but it was always with an expression that said, yeah, whatever, Hattie, nice try, but everything is ­bullshit.––My birth triggered a seismic shift in my sister’s life. The day I was born she put her dress on backwards and ran away towards a brighter future, or possibly towards a brighter past. Our parents found her in a tree next door. Had she been planning to jump? She’s been doing that ever since, travelling in two opposite directions at once, towards infancy and death. I don’t know exactly what it was about me. By all accounts before I existed Min was a normal little girl, normal enough. She could pick a direction and stick with it. Our family photo albums are filled, halfway, with shots of Min laughing and smiling and enjoying life. And then, suddenly, I’m in the picture and Min’s joy evaporates. I’ve spent hours staring at those photos trying to understand my sister. Even in the ones in which I don’t appear it’s easy to see by Min’s expression that I am just beyond the lens, somewhere nearby. Min’s had good days, some inexplicable breaks from the madness, periods of time where she functions beautifully and life is as smooth as glass, almost. The thing I remember most clearly about Cherkis, Thebes’s and Logan’s dad, is how nuts he was about Min and how excited he’d get when Min was on the ­up-­and-­up, taking care of business and acting normal. I liked that about him, but it also broke my heart because he had no idea of the amount of shit that was about to fly. Eventually, though, he did come to understand, and he did what I did, and what so many others in her life have ­done.He ­left.Min had a vague notion of where he’d gone. At first it was Tokyo, about as far away as you can get from here without being on your way back. He moved around the Pacific Rim, and then Europe for a while, South America, and then South Dakota. He’d call sometimes to see how the kids were doing, how Min was doing, if she wanted him to come back. No, she didn’t, she said, every time. And if he tried to take the kids she’d kill herself for real. We didn’t know whether this was a bluff or not, but nobody wanted to challenge it. They were all she had, she told him. Cherkis wasn’t the type of guy to hire a lawyer and fight for custody. He told Min he’d wait until the kids were old enough to decide for themselves and take things from there. He didn’t want to rock Min’s boat. He didn’t want anybody getting ­hurt.I moved to Paris, fled Min’s dark planet for the City of Lights. I didn’t want to leave her and the kids but the truth is she scared me and I thought she might be better off without me, too. Especially if I was the embodiment of her particular anguish. It had been hard to know whether to stay or go. It’s impossible to move through the stages of grief when a person is both dead and alive, the way Min is. It’s like she’s living permanently in an airport terminal, moving from one departure lounge to another but never getting on a plane. Sometimes I tell myself that I’d do anything for Min. That I’d do whatever was necessary for her to be happy. Except that I’m not entirely sure what that would ­be.So the next best thing to being dead was being far away, at least as far as Paris. I had a boyfriend, Marc, and a job in a bookstore, and occasionally I’d go home, back to Manitoba, to Min and Thebes and Logan, for Christmas or the odd birthday, or to help with Min if she was in a really bad patch, but of course that was complicated because I never knew whether I should be there or ­not.I wanted to be an artist, in Paris, or a psychiatrist. Sometimes I’d haul a giant pad of sketch paper and some charcoal pencils to the square in front of the Louvre or wherever the tourists were and I’d offer to sketch them for free. I didn’t feel right about charging anybody, because I wasn’t really doing a good job. In every sketch, it didn’t matter if I was drawing the face of a man or a woman or a kid, I’d include a detail from Min’s face, from what I could remember at that precise moment. Sometimes it was the shape of her eyebrows, or her wide lips, or a constellation of tiny freckles, or even just a shadow beneath the cheekbone. The people I sketched were always slightly confused and disappointed when I showed them my work, I could tell, but most of them were kind, especially because I didn’t expect any ­payment.Our father died in a drowning accident in Acapulco when Min and I were kids. He drowned trying to save us. We’d been racing and had swum out farther than we should have and Min had started panicking, screaming for help. The current was strong and we couldn’t get back to the shore no matter how hard we pushed against the water. I remember yelling at Min to move sideways and to let go of me. After that, my memory of events is blurry. I have a feeling that Min was pushing me down, under water. I think that I remember her hand on my head, or on my shoulder, but maybe I’m wrong. Our mother told us that Dad had heard our screams and had swum out to get us, but that he too had got caught in the undertow and disappeared. They said it was a riptide. Other people on the beach eventually grabbed a boat from somewhere and rescued us, but by then Dad was gone. Min was fifteen and I was nine. They left us lying in the sun on the beach, crying and vomiting up salt water, while they searched for ­him.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?

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 MailFrom the Hardcover edition.