Monday, April 20, 2015

The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson

The four members of the Fang family are far from your typical all-American family. Annie, the older of the two Fang children, is an actress who has been in a successful superhero movie. However, at the start of things in The Family Fang she finds herself in a mess. Her on-set protest about a topless scene she is supposed to do in a movie called Sisters, Lovers results in an internet scandal and in her losing her part in the next installment of the superhero movie franchise. Buster, her brother, has published two unpopular novels and is now writing an article for a men’s magazine on a group of Iraq War vets who have made shooting potatoes out of guns and cannons their post-war hobby.

But Buster and Annie’s lives are normal compared to the pursuits of their parents, Caleb and Camille. Or to put it more accurately, Buster and Annie’s lives are normal compared to the strange childhoods they spent performing in their parents’ performance art pieces. These pieces fell somewhere between experimental art and Candid Camera segments. One piece required Buster to pretend like he had lost his parents at the mall and then insist that a random customer at a department store is his mother. Another had Buster and Annie playing intentionally horrible music on the street with a “note that read: Our Dog Needs an Operation. Please Help Us Save Him.” While they played, their parents snuck into the gathering crowd and started heckling Buster and Annie, inciting the crowd until a riot nearly broke out. Most of The Family Fang alternates between chapters about the family’s past art pieces and ones that follow what is presently going on with the Fangs. This could make for a potentially sluggish read but author Kevin Wilson doesn’t allow this to happen. When the flashbacks are most successful they parallel issues Annie and Buster are currently dealing with.

Despite the wackiness, the characters are three dimensional, and Wilson creates a very plausible alternate reality. The humor is sharp, often laugh-out-loud, and there are plenty of plot twists. Most importantly, The Family Fang is likely to remind you of little that you’ve read before.


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