The Best Laid Plans is the book that recently won the CBC Radio Canada Reads contest. I felt it was the perfect book for every Canadian to read: it’s accessible, it’s extremely funny; it has believable, attractive characters and a great plot that keeps you, as they say, turning pages. Indeed, I don’t suggest you start the book unless you see a block of time ahead or want to stay up all night to finish it.
Oddly enough, publishers rejected this gem and the author (Terry Fallis) finally self-published. People loved it, though, and after it won the Stephen Leacock humour award, regular publishers were at last interested.
The plot is simple. Daniel, having entered politics dewy-eyed and naïve and hopeful, finds himself disillusioned and hopeless. He just wants out. He’d be satisfied to return to the university teaching he’d thought he had left behind. Enter Angus, a dour Scot who’s weary of trying to teach English literature to third year engineering students. He too wants out. The small town of Cumberland, just south of Ottawa, has a candidate for the Conservatives who’s a shoe-in to get re elected. Daniel persuades Angus to run against this saint — for that’s what his constituents call him. Angus, Daniel assures him, can’t possibly win. But there’s a glitch. Angus gets elected — in error.
This is where the story takes on a deeper meaning. What happens when a totally honest person gets elected to our Canadian legislature?
I think Fallis has used a rollicking good story to make us think. As I write, the Bev Oda scandal is high in the news. But it could be any other scandal that we’re preoccupied with. And there have been many, over the years, involving both main parties. Perhaps the situation is particularly dire now. Perhaps Fallis wants us to finish laughing and begin to ponder and then to act. Perhaps he wants us to get off our soft seats and get involved.
Yes, the Canada Reads panel was right in its choice. This is a book every Canadian should read.