I’m not wholly comfortable with the idea of suspending disbelief as a reader. I think it paints us in a somewhat cynical shade, suggests that even before we’ve opened the cover we’ve got the knowing face on and we’re waiting for you, dear writer, to impress us with the way you pull the wool over. I rather prefer to approach a book with the view that I’m going to learn about someone else’s truth, whatever that may be. This distinction, I think, cuts to the heart of whether you’ll like this novel or not. If, like me, you’re of a more accepting stance with your reading then you’re in for an engaging, sometimes amusing time, with the odd wrench of the heart thrown in for good measure. If you’re of the other camp it’s possible you’ll be rolling your eyes and huffing in disgust.
It’s all down to that central action that precipitates that most beloved of engines for fiction: the road trip. You see, to me it didn’t seem that far-fetched that Hattie should decide to pile the kids into the camper and leave the country in search of something that might be more appropriately described as adult supervision. Like just about everyone in this book (even the dog), Hattie has been rejected by the people she needed the most, and while it’s a question of degrees that favours Hattie she is in fact only marginally less damaged than her hospitalised sister, Min, mother to the aforementioned kids.
Of course, if you’re not like me you’ll be wondering just how hard it is to pick up the phone and ring social services, thereby making the book about three quarters shorter than it is – or a good deal longer and several shades darker, depending on your view of government-funded childcare.
Me being me, my heart aches for young Thebes (and not just because she’s called Thebes). There’s something really touching about the relentless optimism of a damaged child and Miriam Teows sets her exquisitely against the foil of equally-damaged-but-far-more guardedly-hopeful older brother, Logan. The three intrepids tread the fine line between optimism and despair, anger and elation as they search for someone to stand by them, or with them, or for them.
The Flying Troutmans was published by Faber on the 6th August 2009 ISBN: 9780571224029
You can find Miriam on Twitter @MiriamToews