Book/Author: The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson
Publisher/Year: Ecco/ August 2011
Genre: Adult Fiction
Where I got this book: Received from the publisher for an honest review (thanks HarperCollins!)
Why I read this book: I thought it sounded really interesting
Rating: 3 stars
Brief Summary (from Goodreads): Mr. and Mrs. Fang called it art. Their children called it mischief.
Performance artists Caleb and Camille Fang dedicated themselves to making great art. But when an artist’s work lies in subverting normality, it can be difficult to raise well-adjusted children. Just ask Buster and Annie Fang. For as long as they can remember, they starred (unwillingly) in their parents’ madcap pieces. But now that they are grown up, the chaos of their childhood has made it difficult to cope with life outside the fishbowl of their parents’ strange world.
When the lives they’ve built come crashing down, brother and sister have nowhere to go but home, where they discover that Caleb and Camille are planning one last performance–their magnum opus–whether the kids agree to participate or not. Soon, ambition breeds conflict, bringing the Fangs to face the difficult decision about what’s ultimately more important: their family or their art.
My thoughts: The Family Fang is a story about a dysfunctional family of performance artists, the Fang's. Art has always been the most important thing to Caleb and Camille Fang, until they have children and suddenly have other responsibilities. The Fang's learned to incorporate the kids Annie and Buster, or Child A and Child B, into their "art" butas the kids grew up they weren't as willing to be a part of their parents mischief. This book was full to the brim with conflict and it reminded me of the family dysfunction in television and movies such as Arrested Development and The Royal Tenenbaums (in fact the blurb on the back of the book mentions this similarity to the Wes Anderson film). It was highly entertaining but often uncomfortable.
The Fang's artwork was always about the reaction of others and much of it was cruel or just plain wrong. I have to give props to Buster and Annie for both turning out relatively normal after having parents as bizarre as Caleb and Camille. I felt so bad for them because it was clear that their parents would always choose their artwork over them and that rejection is a pretty terrible thing to deal with for any kid. For the most part I enjoyed the wacky antics that went on in the novel, although the horrible parenting drove me nuts. I didn't particularly care for any of the characters, they were more of a love to hate bunch. The public displays that the Fang parents created were often at the expense of their children's privacy or innocence. A and B never got a choice whether or not they wanted to be a part of their parents creative process and now as adults they are finding out not only are they still a part of it but they have become victims of the Fang's craziest piece yet.
For much of the novel I was entertained but nothing was really making me want to drop everything to pick up the book. There was a bit of a twist ending that pulled me back in and caused me to blow through the last 50 or so pages. Overall, I thought The Family Fang was a fun read with a peculiar premise. I'd recommend this to anyone with an interest in reading books with a mix of flawed characters and comedic situations. It's not necessarily a laugh out loud book but it's one that will have you thinking on a much deeper level about society, families and what's important in life.