Wednesday, November 19, 2008
A road novel helped along by a lovably nutty cast, Toews's latest (after A Complicated Kindness) follows a ragtag crew as they crisscross America. Hattie, recently dumped in Paris by her moody, adjective-hating boyfriend, returns home to Canada after receiving an emergency phone call from her niece. Turns out, Hattie's sister, Min, is back in the psych ward, and her kids, 11-year-old Thebes and 15-year-old Logan, are fending for themselves. Thus the quirky trio—purple-haired, wise-beyond-her-years Thebes, recently expelled brother Logan and overwhelmed Hattie—embark on a road trip to the States to find the kids' long-missing father. What follows is a Little Miss Sunshine–like quest in which the characters learn about themselves and each other as they weather car repairs, sleazy motel rooms and encounters with bizarre people. Toews's gift for writing precocious children and the story's antic momentum redeem the familiar set-up, and if the ending feels a bit rushed, it's largely because it's tough to let Toews's characters go.