“I see the ad early in the day, when I’m taking a coffee break between servicing the Skee-Ball lanes. A Frankie’s Funhouse eighty kilometres out of Chicago is converting a Nifty Trio Set to Digital One. They’ve got an old Franny Feathers, my daughter Starr’s favourite character, in Urban Cowgirl costume, as is…I email them right away, asking price,” (Tacon 7).
First things first, the summary for this book isn’t really right. It reads more like what Tacon planned for the novel to be, like a first draft where the actual novel shifts in some of the details. For one thing Henry’s wife is called Kath throughout the novel, not Kathy and she is one of the few character’s who doesn’t narrate a portion of the novel while the summary implies she has a bigger role. Also Henry and Kath’s second daughter Melanie is not pregnant like the summary says but is researching fertility treatment It’s like the summary was written and exaggerated on to make the book sound more quirky and exciting than it actually is because really, not much happens in In Search of the Perfect Singing Flamingo. But it’s still an engaging story.
Here’s a more accurate summary: Henry Robinson will do anything for his daughter Starr who was born with Williams Syndrome, even if that means working at Frankie’s Funhouse and buying, fixing, and stuffing his basement full of the animatronic character band she loves. Of course this comes to the annoyance of his wife Kath who wishes he’d give their elder daughter some independence and his younger daughter Melanie who is looking into fertility treatments for a baby of her own. Meanwhile, Henry’s teenage co-worker Darren who wear the Frankie costume at the Funhouse wants to go to Chicago Comic-Con to win back his ex-girlfriend and Henry’s found an old Franny Feathers, a singing flamingo from the animatronic band, to add to his basement collection so he takes Starr and Darren and a couple of pet turtles with him across the border, without his wife and other daughter knowing of course.
In Search of the Perfect Singing Flamingo is an interesting story because nothing really happens. The road trip and comic-con part of the story is surprisingly short and the novel is largely about our narrators Henry, Starr, and Melanie talking about what living with a family member (or in Starr’s case her perspective) with a disability and how it changes and affects a family dynamic. Darren’s perspective is the only one that doesn’t involve this plotline.
The novel shifts in perspectives between Henry and Darren for the most start with Starr having the next amount of chapters and Melanie only having a voice a for a couple of chapters. While the premise promises some sort of road trip adventure, the story is really about the family and what family will do for each other, sometimes to a fault. Henry will do anything to bring Starr joy, to keep her happy and protected even though Starr is striving for independence. Her perspectives talk about her joy of cooking and working with children, how she likes living with her friend Della, and while their are annoyances on the way Starr for the most part has a way with coping with them. I loved Melanie’s perspective because it showed a different kind of love and heartache because Melanie loves her sister but feels guilty for all the times she couldn’t protect her, and this reflects in her worries of motherhood. I also loved seeing how Melanie didn’t resent Starr for the attention she got from her father, she just wished Henry could give her the same kind of love. I wish we could have heard more from Melanie.
Darren’s perspective was definitely the odd one out, being the only minority voice and one of the only characters that wasn’t directly involved with Starr. Darren’s perspective wasn’t bad, but it really wasn’t necessary to the plot. If anything Tacon could have used Darren’s perspective for a separate novel, it’s clear that the author really only needed Darren’s perspective so that Starr and Henry had a reason to go to Chicago. Removing Darren from the story really wouldn’t have changed anything. I would have preferred Kath having a perspective and her lack of voice was very odd to the novel as a whole.
The word quest has been thrown around a lot with this book and that’s also not an accurate way to describe this story because it doesn’t follow a quest narrative in any way. Aside from a few quirks and cringes, In Search of the Perfect Singing Flamingo is about family, love, and learning to let go. It’s a sweet and memorable novel and I can’t really place what I like about it, only that Starr and her family felt real. Starr was more than her Williams Syndrome and her family was more than just her caregivers, and I’d love to read more books that look at illness and disability from this perspective.
Publication: June 1st 2018
Publisher: Wolsak & Wynn Publishers Ltd.
Pages: 224 pages
Genre: Fiction, Adult, Contemporary, Canadian
My Rating: ⛤⛤⛤.5
When Henry Robinson’s first daughter, Starr, is born with Williams Syndrome, he swears to devote his life to making her happy. More than twenty years later, we find Henry working at Frankie’s Funhouse, where he repairs the animatronic band that Starr loves, wrestling with her attempts at living outside the family home. His wife, Kathy, wishes he would allow Starr more independence, hoping that Henry will turn his attention a little more to their own relationship and to their other daughter, who is pregnant. As tensions mount Henry’s young co-worker, Darren, reveals he needs to get to Chicago Comic Con to win back his ex-girlfriend, so Henry packs Starr (and her pet turtles) and Darren (still dressed as Frankie the mascot) into the van for a road trip no one was prepared for.