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Saturday, June 30, 2012

Guest Post- Ann Weir's review of Terry Fallis's The Best Laid Plans

Humour is the first thing I would hope for from a book about politics in Ottawa and that is exactly what Terry Fallis delivers in this lively story about an eventful few months in Daniel Addison’s life. Young Daniel, having earned a PHD in English and turned Liberal, despite his family’s solid blue Tory history, leaves his job as the head speech writer for the Leader of the Opposition on the eve of an election. He’s fed up with politics and hurting after catching his girlfriend cheating on him with the Opposition House Leader. Daniel accepts a job as a junior professor at the University of Ottawa, but agrees to do one last favour for the Liberals. It’s a big one as Daniel agrees to find a Liberal candidate and manage their upcoming campaign in the most solid Tory stronghold in the country, his home riding of Cumberland-Prescott. After a discouraging search, Daniel manages to strike a bargain with his landlord Angus McLintock. Angus, an engineering professor and English language buff, will put his name on the ballot if Daniel agrees to take his place teaching English for Engineering to first year engineering students. And so the campaign begins with a quickly assembled team consisting of Muriel Parkinson, resident of the Riverfront Seniors’ Residence and long-suffering Liberal candidate, her granddaughter Lindsay and the two Petes, outrageously dressed first-year engineering students recruited from Daniel’s English class.  

The Best Laid Plans has a terrific plot, full of unexpected twists and turns, it moves along briskly from one amusing episode to the next. The characters are all so inviting, like friends I couldn’t wait to spend time with. Angus is a gem, a crusty 60’ish engineer with a marshmallow centre who writes poetic letters to his recently deceased wife. In Angus, Fallis has brought to life our ideals to have politicians with character who think for themselves and aren’t afraid to follow their conscious to do the right thing. And the two Petes are hilarious, easily my favourite characters. Through them, Fallis tells fellow parents not to worry about what your kids choose to look like, it’s what they choose to do that matters. A friend of mine once complained that Canadian literature is all too serious; I can’t wait to lend her my copy of this very funny and uplifting book.

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