In Search of the Perfect Singing Flamingo
272 pages | ISBN 978-1-928088-57-8
*Chosen for Hamilton Reads 2019*
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.
Advance Praise | Reviews | Interviews | Articles | Excerpt
"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
"Written with humour and grace, In Search of the Perfect Singing Flamingo centres on Henry Robinson, a father struggling to be his best in his relationship with his daughters, a father learning to hold on tighter and to let go in equal measure. Add to that a funhouse and a road trip and a cast of characters you won't soon forget, and you have a novel that manages to be clever and funny and wrenching and captivating all at once. Tacon's writing is full of quiet magic, mixing the ordinary with the extraordinary as only great fiction can do. I couldn't put it down until I'd reached its final page."
– Amy Stuart, author of Still Mine
Review of Claire Tacon's "In Search of the Perfect Singing Flamingo" (Daryl Sneath, FreeFall Magazine, 26/01/2020)
"Everything Tacon summons here hums with energy and purpose, captured perhaps most starkly by the juxtaposition of the unexpected: so-called 'high' art alongside 'low' art, classic literature allusions rubbing elbows
with contemporary luminaries and, not to be forgotten, a pair of innocently smuggled turtles who unwittingly cause all kinds of problems."
Cathy Stonehouse Reviews New Novels by Rachel Giese and Claire Tacon for Issue 47/3 (Cathy Stonehouse, Event Poetry and Prose, 04/02/2019)
"Tacon's writing is concise, nimble and precise [...] Every detail rings true and the authorial voice only rarely overwhelms the characters'. Tacon's skilfully integrated research and the specificity of the situations in which she places her characters work together to solidify her evocation of some very different social experiences."
In Search of the Perfect Singing Flamingo (Laura Leavitt, Foreword Reviews, Jul/Aug 2018)
"The plot twists here are hilarious and hopeful, even through excellently drawn, spine-tingling conflicts. Dialogue is snappy, and inner monologues humanize the characters, even as they make decisions with bad consequences. Life with Williams Syndrome is explored with nuance."
Review: In Search of the Perfect Singing Flamingo (Andrew Hood, 27/05/2018)
"In Search of the Perfect Singing Flamingo is equal parts compassionate and tough, fun and punishing. What the right thing to do for yourself or for another person is rarely cut and dry, and no matter which decision you make -- the safe one or the unsafe one -- there will be consequences."
In Search of the Perfect Singing Flamingo by Claire Tacon (Dory Cerny, Quill & Quire, 25/05/2018)
"In her sophomore novel, Claire Tacon takes a gentle and measured approach to the story of one family's experience with Williams syndrome. [She] succeeds at making her characters, and their stories, touching and resonant."
In Search of the Perfect Singing Flamingo, by Claire Tacon (Kerry Clare, Pickle Me This, 15/05/2018)
"I loved this book. A novel with this many first-person points of view is an ambitious one, but Tacon lives up to the challenge. She gives each of her characters such rich and rewarding back-stories, occupations, and preoccupations—each one enough to fill a book on its own. And as the story progresses, it becomes clear how connected everything is, how multifaceted the symbolism is. This is not a book about Starr, about disability, about a road trip, about an animatronic rat—but instead, it’s about relationships and intersections, and the incredible interconnectedness of all our lives and the things we love, and the ramifications of our behaviour on others that we might fail to consider. It’s about making safe spaces in the world so that Henry can send Starr out into it with assurance that she is valued and included. It’s a novel about trust, in ourselves, in society, and each other. And it’s a triumph."
One Possible Experience: A Conversation with Claire Tacon (Kate Finegan, The Adroit Journal, 28/05/2019)
"My intention with the book was to have it really grounded in a specific family at a specific time in a specific place. I wanted to accurately represent a possible experience, not a 'universal' experience."
Episode #22 Claire Tacon — Eden Mills Writers' Festival Podcast (Anna Bowen, Bookish Radio, 23/08/2018)
Anna Bowen interviews Guelph novelist Claire Tacon about her new novel, In Search of the Perfect Singing Flamingo.
Writer's Block: Claire Tacon (All Lit Up, 07/08/2018)
"My writing has been described as domestic and I’d love to be asked why I write on that scale. My hunch is that particular label can never escape the traps of gender. No one calls Mordecai Richler’s Barney’s Version domestic fiction. When a man is wrestling with his internal state, reconciling his life, we call it an existential crisis. Also, I think that writing about people, their immediate lives, can be more political than we give it credit for."
Get Lit episode for 2018-07-12 (Jaime Tennant, Get Lit, 12/07/2018)
Clarie talks about her book and Chuck E. Cheese.
INTERVIEW: CLAIRE TACON (Jeremy Luke Hill, Queen Mob's Teahouse, 30/06/2018)
"In writing characters that were further from my experience, I felt like I had to meet three requirements. One, I had to know what I was talking about. This book involved a lot of research in many areas, but I’m particularly grateful to the Canadian Association for Williams Syndrome (CAWS). Two, I wanted to be accountable to the communities I was representing. Three, I need to look at how writers from within those communities have been ignored."
Geting to Know Author Claire Tacon: Activism, Guelph Love, and a Badass Grandma (Open Book, 21/06/2018)
"My father once bought one hundred individually-portioned frozen Shepherd’s pies because the sale was so good. When he brought them home and tried them, we discovered why they had been so deeply discounted."
The Chat with Claire Tacon (Trevor Corkum, 49th Shelf, 14/06/2018)
"That transition out of high school, and adolescence in general, really fascinates me. I think of it like a volcanic eruption—you’re just growing at such an explosive rate, trying out all these different shapes and ways of being. Figuring out what you want to reject from the world and family you came into and what you want to model."
The Books I Want to Read Again (Kerry Clare, 49th Shelf, 26/03/2020)
Kerry Clare chooses Claire's book as one that she "Want[s] to Read Again."
Here's the book Hamilton's library thinks you should read (CBC News, 06/06/2019)
"Picking the book was 'just an easy decision,' said Bozz, noting that staff also know library customers who have Williams Syndrome. The book was produced by Hamilton publisher Wolsak and Wynn, which was also a 'big drawing point.'"
Books to Read Based on Your Zodiac Sign (AllLitUp, 22/01/2019)
"Cancer: Family comes first for loyal cancer just like it does for devoted dad Henry Robinson in Claire Tacon's In Search of the Perfect Singing Flamingo. Promising his daughter Starr, born with Williams Syndrome, a happy fulfilling life, sees Henry going to animatronic lengths to do just that, (including repairing an animatronic band that Starr loves and taking her on a road trip), and learning to give his daughter more independence."
068 - Can't Lit - BONUS Daniel Zomparelli (Can't Lit, 10/12/2018)
Claire's novel is mentioned as one of the books loved by the hosts in 2018.
2018 Books of the Year: Fiction (Kerry Clare, 49th Shelf, 29/11/2018)
Claire's book makes 49th Shelf's favourite books of 2018.
Get Out Of Town: 11 Literary Getaways (Kerry Clare, 49th Shelf, 13/08/2018)
All Books Are Beach Books: Get Your Summer Reads Locked In (Kerry Clare, 49th Shelf, 04/06/2018)
"This ambitious novel is glorious, and such a triumph. If you want your faith in humankind (and also the possibilities of literature) to be rekindled, pick up this book."
Most Anticipated: Our 2018 Spring Fiction Preview (Kerry Clare, 49th Shelf, 08/01/2018)
"Award-winner Claire Tacon's second novel is the story of a father struggling to let his daughters grow up and of a family struggling against hard odds and taking care of each other when the world lets them down."
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.