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Family Faultlines   Leave a comment

The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson is exasperating and slightly intriguing. Camille and Caleb Fang are performance artists in the extreme. Their definition of art is to create irresponsible chaos amidst the realities of daily routines. The Fangs have children, Annie and Buster, who are used as props and/or unwilling co-conspirators. The kids, also known as A and B, have no interest in being part of their parents’ far-fetched ideas. Once old enough they leave home to pursue more traditional artistic endeavors: Annie is a film actress and Buster writes novels.

When the novel begins, however, both Annie and Buster are experiencing low points in their lives. Though resistant, they return to the family home. Wilson creates a palpable sense of anger and frustration on A and B’s part. This spills onto the reader. In a way Camille and Caleb are like the king who wears no clothes when they create their exaggerated scenarios, most of which are ill-conceived. It’s their children who wonder why no one else can see what they do.

Wilson combines a fair amount of humor, elements of a low-key mystery and the pathos associated with children who have been psychologically harmed and become adults who haven’t outgrown the affliction.

Unfortunately, the narrative doesn’t work. Too many questions arise making suspension of disbelief impossible. For example, if the Fangs are so successful as performance artists why aren’t they recognized? More importantly, why didn’t anyone call social services to keep Annie and Buster out of the fray?

The Family Fang

Three Bookmarks
Ecco, 2011
309 pages

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