Beginning of Best Laid Plans

04 Nov Beginning of Best Laid Plans

Image: Terry Fallis with his book, "The Best Laid Plans"

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I love supporting Canadian authors and it doesn’t get more Canuck than Terry Fallis. From the content of his first book, The Best Laid Plans, to the story of how he published it, this author is a down home, hard working, hilariously self-effacing kind of guy. From the back of the book we learn that Terry got tired of waiting for a traditional publisher to pick up his book so he recorded it and released it, one chapter at a time, as a podcast. Encouraged by the positive response, he decided to self publish it and went on to win the Stephen Leacock Award for Humour–a huge honour and totally shocking for a self-published book. Now published by McClelland & Stewart, the rest is history but I LOVE the story of how Terry got his story out there.

Our protagonist, Daniel Addison, is a head speech writer for the Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opositition–in other words, the Liberals. Dating a hottie political advisor named Rachel, Daniel becomes disillusioned about a lot more than politics when he finds her “On her knees in front of the Opposition House Leader. Let’s just say she was rather enthusiastically lobbying his caucus.”

There’s loads of this kind of clever humour throughout the book–definitely one of Fallis’ strong points, but there’s equally as much detailed attention paid to the ins and outs (no pun intended) of politics. I felt a little betrayed by the promise of “sex in the hallowed hall of parliament” on the back of the book because the encounter with Rachel occurs in the prologue…and that’s about where the sex–like their relationship–ends.

Still, the book moves at a brisk pace in the beginning, pulling the reader into the story as Danielle quits politics, taking a position as an English professor at the University of Ottawa, where he meets the book’s most endearing character, Professor Angus McLintock, with whom he makes an interesting exchange. Daniel needs to find a Liberal candidate for the Tory strong riding of Cumberland-Prescott and Angus needs to find a willing victim to teach English for Engineers. When Angus agrees to stand as a candidate, presuming he will fall to the most popular Finance Minister in Canadian history, and Daniel takes over his class, both men are happy. Their friendship grows as Daniel rents the older Professor’s houseboat and the two play nightly games of chess, highlighted by Angus’ scotch habit and skinny-dipping plunges into the cold Ottawa River.

The story is rounded out with characters like the hilarious, wonderfully witty and charming, sharp-as-a-nail Muriel Parkinson, a staunch Liberal for life supporter who ran in previous elections, always to be defeated by the Tories. Muriel makes her home at the Riverfront Seniors’ Residence and gets drawn into yet another election as an Angus supporter. Of course, Muriel just happens to have an attractive and bright granddaughter, Lindsay–an early love interest for Daniel.

So now three-quarters of the way into the book, I have a rather mixed take on things. I hate to sit on the fence, but I’m just not sure how I feel about this one. I love the characters, enjoy the humor, but truthfully have often been bogged down in the mundane details of life on Parliament Hill–not to give it away, but let’s just say there’s a major political upset that changes the course of all these characters’ lives.

And I wish Daniel would have a drink every once in a while. He’s so straight and noble and good and concerned about being politically correct. He’s so…Canadian! The old Scotsman, McLintock at least likes a few fingers of Scotch, which seems to bring out some passion in the man, while Daniel sticks to Diet Coke–and his developing relationship with Lindsay reflects that wholesomeness. I don’t foresee any crazy sexual forays in their future!

But who knows? There are some twists in this well-written, practically plotted book…I’ll keep reading and keep you informed.

Meanwhile, here’s a cool little article from back of the book that explains how Terry got published, his sequel,  and what he’s working on now.