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gertrude

May 2018

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Barbara

She Ain’t Heavy, She’s My Sister



I’ve certainly been getting around lately. In the past week I’ve courted danger in Venice and Berlin, fought the cold war in Switzerland, settled for a while in Missouri. Now I’m back from taking a road trip from Canada to California with The Flying Troutmans, courtesy of Miriam Toews.

Twenty eight-year-old Hattie has an older sister, Min. For as long as Hattie can remember, Min has had psychotic spells where she seems not to want to live, putting the burden on her family of keeping her alive. Hattie escapes to Paris but a desperate phone call from her niece Thebes calls her back to Manitoba. Logan and Thebes are in the same position as the girls in Jacqueline Wilson’s The Illustrated Mum. They love their mother but fear for her all the time. Not surprisingly, both children act a little strangely.

Min goes into hospital and Hattie takes off with the children to find their father. The long journey is something of a nightmare, relieved by the wonderful character of the girl Thebes. She reminded me a lot of Rose in Hilary McKay’s Casson family books and from me that’s a big recommendation. It’s all desperately sad but also very funny. The end of the book doesn’t provide any easy solution, just another way of coping. I can see why this copy has #1 Bestseller written all over it.

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