The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I took a creative writing course on plot from a local University. During that class the professor said that "character is plot." She did not discount the need for a good structural plot that moves the story forward, but the point was that compelling characters almost do the job for you. I think that The Family Fang is a good example of this theory.
Annie and Buster are the children of Caleb and Camille Fang - known to their parents and the outside world as child A and B. Their parents do "performance art" where they create chaos events and film the reactions of the unsuspecting crowds. They also force their children to participate. Annie and Buster, now grown and gone, resent this upbringing and the emotional scarring it left. They also recognize that it has shaped who they are and, in some bizarre way, allowed them to do the traditional creative jobs they have - Annie is an actress and Buster is a writer. Events early in the book force them back home to remember and re-live the painful upbringing.
My undergraduate degree is in Psychology and a professor once told me that "every parent screws up their kids, it's just a matter of degree." Caleb and Camille have screwed up Annie and Buster a lot. They are committed to their art to the point of complete disregard of the effect it has on anyone else. The descriptions of the performance art are entertaining and disturbing at the same time when you consider children are being asked to participate.
The characters of Annie and Buster are fantastic. They make a great brother and sister team that care for each other and are trying to help each other survive the continuing ordeal of their parents art. Caleb and Camille are also very well developed as the backdrop and explanation for the problems you see with Annie and Buster. I enjoy being jarred by strange situations in books and this book definitely delivers. Strange stuff happens throughout the book and I found myself laughing throughout the craziness. More importantly, it manages to present a thoughtful commentary on family and the sacrifice of being a father, mother, sister, brother. A person can pick their friends, but we are all stuck with our families.
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