In Search of the Perfect Singing Flamingo is an affecting and charming story about living with disability, family dynamics and a wacky road trip. This book will appeal to anyone with complex and loving family relationships.
When Henry Robinson’s daughter Starr is born with Williams Syndrome, he swears to devote his life to making her happy. More than twenty years later, Henry works 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 wishes he would allow Starr more independence and turn his attention a little more to their own relationship and their other daughter, Melanie. As tensions mount Henry’s young coworker, 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.
Told in multiple points of view, we hear from Henry, Darren and Starr as they all try to find their place in the world. In Search of the Perfect Singing Flamingo is a charming, tender and often funny story of a father struggling to let his daughters grow up and of a family struggling against hard odds, taking care of each other when the world lets them down.
"Hilarious and humane, uproarious and unpredictable, Claire Tacon's In Search of the Perfect Singing Flamingo hums with infectious power. Imagine George Saunders and Meg Wolitzer co-authored a book about a Chuck E. Cheese franchise in North York, only then might you get some idea of what Claire Tacon has accomplished here. It's a story about regret, siblinghood, parenthood, fertility, nostalgia and disappointment, which is perhaps just a long way of saying: it's a story about a family."
– Michael Christie, author of If I Fall, If I Die
Read the book and join the discussion.
In Search of the Perfect Singing Flamingo is available in book and eBook formats, as well as a book club kit. Check out a copy today and get reading.
Book discussions will be scheduled during the summer, so you can talk about In Search of the Perfect Singing Flamingo in more detail. Start a discussion group of your own. Or, consider these questions to get started.
- Of the four character perspectives, which most resonated for you? Did they remind you of anyone in your life?
- If you were making a movie of this book, who would you cast as Starr, Melanie, Henry and Darren?
- If you were talking to the author, what would you want to ask her?
- Starr, Henry and Darren go on a road trip together. What’s your ideal road trip song?
- In the book, Frankie’s Funhouse is a children’s party centre with singing animatronic animals. In your childhood, did you visit a place like this?
- What do you think the author’s purpose was in writing this book? What ideas was she trying to get across?
- Have you ever experienced a problem crossing the US/Canada border? How did it compare to the one in the story?
- If you were Starr’s caregiver, what would be your biggest concern about her long-term future?
- It is difficult for any author, male or female, to write a convincing first-person narrative from the perspective of the opposite gender. Were Claire Tacon’s male narrators (Henry & Darren) authentic to you? Why or why not?
- Was the portrayal of the police accurate in their treatment of Starr? Do you think there is discrimination against people with special needs by police/customs officers? Compare the treatment of Starr by the police following the incident/assault at the pool and the incident at the border?
- “Mostly I’m angry that the world isn’t more like it was on-board (the cruise ship). It would take so little to support Starr, even without us. Someone for day-to-day meals and errands; someone to take an interest at work; some friends to take her out; family to cover the rest. It’s more than Kathleen and I can muster on our own. But from a whole community? It doesn’t seem like too much to ask, to expect.” In this quote Henry wishes that there was more social support from the community. How does support manifest in your community?
Love Tacon’s novel? For related books, movies and music suggestions, see our catalogue.
Claire Tacon’s first novel, In the Field, was the winner of the 2010 Metcalf-Rooke Award. Her fiction has been shortlisted for the Bronwen Wallace Award, the CBC Literary Prizes and the Playboy College Fiction Contest, and has appeared in journals and anthologies such as The New Quarterly, SubTerrain and Best Canadian Short Stories. She has an MFA in creative writing from the University of British Columbia and is a past fiction editor of PRISM international. Claire is a lecturer at St. Jerome’s University and runs the fiction podcast The Oddments Tray with Chioke I’Anson.