There's just something about Miriam Toews. I've never known an author who could be so uplifting and depressing at the same time.
I read her mega-hit "A Complicated Kindness" summer before last. I usually avoid the big bestsellers, they have an annoying tendency to be sad voids where a potentially good story gets bogged down in terrible writing and critic-pandering, but when M. tells me I should read something, I usually do. He was right, as he mostly is. I liked it very much. A book about the hard times, and a hard girl that managed to avoid cliches and was funny without simpering.
If anything, I liked The Flying Troutmans even better. Again a story about people dealing with impossibly sad situations, Toews takes her prairie desolation on the road, to the deserts of the USA in this surprisingly optimistic story. The narrative is more traditional and therefore probably more accessible than the first. The heartbreak is constant, but so too is the idea that, although things will probably never be ok, they might at least get a little better. This is more optimistic than it sounds. You know that the characters will never be free of their burdens, because they are imposed by bad luck on people they love. They would not choose to leave anyone behind no matter how hurtful that person was. But you believe that things will likely improve to the point where they will be bearable, and that's good enough.
When the characters reach a situation that they can live with, you want to stand up and cheer. Bound by love, they find a way to deal.