The Best Laid Plans – plan to read it!
April 10, 2011
I recently read this tremendous book and must recommend it to you … and then you must recommend it to all your friends. Honest to goodness, I laughed out loud and teared up too and then on a high from the crescendo of the story closed the book and felt wistful – sorry I couldn’t join the characters for a chat in the local coffee shop. They were all such, well … characters! I have been on a great run of good books lately: Room, The Postmistress, Left Neglected and while each of those was moving in its own way and certainly enjoyable, this little book-that-could was the one that has inspired me most to share it with others.
The story behind the existence of the book is entertainment enough. Terry Fallis wanted to have the book he had written read by readers, and what writer wouldn’t? But he found it challenging to garner a publisher and finally resorted to creating a series of podcasts of his book just like the podcasts he enjoyed listening to himself. Sure enough, a following of listeners/readers began to tune in. And cheer! Then Terry decided to self-publish a few copies. Enough copies were printed that the book could be considered for the Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour (2008) and lo and behold it won the award. A great deal more copies were in demand as a result. As positive an experience as that was, The Best Laid Plans was selected as a candidate for CBC Radio’s Canada Reads 2011 … and was that competition’s victor too. This success doesn’t surprise me one iota. It is rare to find a novel that strikes the funny bone and the heart with equal force. This was funny, heartwarming, intelligent and oh so Canadian.
The tale begins by following Daniel Addison as he attempts to extricate himself from a political career in Ottawa. Before he can move on he must recruit an electoral candidate for a write-off, never won riding on behalf of his federal political Party. He locates an extremely reluctant candidate – one gruff, unfailingly honourable Scot, Angus McLintock – who puts his name forward only so long as he’s guaranteed to never actually win the post. This duo reminds me of some of the oldtime caper movie partnerships – Redford and Newman or maybe more Abbott and Costello. The take on politics is satirical yet refreshing – a timely read during our current federal and provincial election campaigns. Dear Angus is recently widowed and poignantly reports his personal review of his antics and adventures to his late wife at the end of each chapter. More lovely characters join the cast and are just as enjoyable and fun. I don’t want to give any of the hilarity away but be prepared for a good guffaw.
And now for the reee-allly good news … there’s a sequel! No need to feel gloomy at the last page after all. The second installment for the cast is called The High Road and is already nominated for its very own Leacock medal. I’m off to locate a copy, pronto. Chime in with your thoughts if you’ve read the book (or books) as well.