#CBR4 Review 15: The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson

25 Mar

I’ve never read anything like The Family Fang, and it’s wonderful. It’s wacky and dramatic without becoming trite or overly quirky.   Wilson tells the story of Caleb and Camille Fang, performance artists who make their living causing major disruptions in public places.  From birth, Annie and Buster are roped into each and every one of their parents performances; their entire childhood is a series of exercises in orchestrating the absurd and waiting patiently for the audience reaction.  Some sample performances from their childhoods:

  • Annie & Buster perform on stage at a talent show, purposely playing their instruments as terribly as possible. Caleb and Camille heckle them from the audience; the audience becomes incensed – half the audience screams terrible insults at the incredibly young children, half the audience comes to their defense.
  • Caleb and Camille stage fake marriage proposals on airplanes, once with a happy ending and once with Camille rejecting Caleb in the small space
  • Camille steals jelly beans from a candy shop; when the shop owner tries to stop her, jelly beans explode out of her clothing and children rush the candy like a pinata
It’s hard to do the performance art chapters justice; the events are so absurd, so awkward, and so hilarious. But you can feel the subtle damage being done to Annie & Buster. Imagine growing up with parents who only played pretend; how could you know who you are, or what life is supposed to be like? Ultimately, Annie winds up a movie star and Buster winds up a mediocre author. When Annie’s career is in tatters and Buster suffers a serious injury, they return home to their parents and their absurd childhood.

And then their parents disappear.

Annie and Buster don’t know what to do. They don’t know if they’re parents have actually been murdered, or if they’re parents are pulling off the “ultimate performance art” piece. Annie wants to destroy them, hurt them as much as possible if they’re alive, and move on with her life. Buster just wants to find them, and go back to the way things were. Annie and Buster do the only thing they can: try to follow their parents unwritten script, in hopes of finding them.

The book is part social commentary on the lives we lead today; you can feel the parallels between the way we represent ourselves on the internet, the way we spend so much time wondering how other people will react to every action we take. It’s part comedy, with the craziness of their lives providing an unending stream of giggles. Most importantly, the book looks at the way our parents shape us, and how we might not ever realize how profound their impact on us is.

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4 Responses to “#CBR4 Review 15: The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson”

  1. sevenstories April 4, 2012 at 8:00 am #

    I bought this after reading your review and I can’t wait to read it! Awesome review. Best bit of Cannonball is discovering these books you wouldn’t have otherwise come across!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. HelloKatieO’s #CBR4 Review #15: The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson « Cannonball Read IV - March 25, 2012

    […] More… Share this:ShareTwitterFacebookEmailDiggStumbleUpon Posted by hellokatieo in 5 stars – a favorite and tagged families, hellokatieo, kevin wilson, performance art, social commentary, the family fang […]

  2. Cannonball Read IV Reviews of Note: Say Yep to Knope - March 29, 2012

    […] grown up and trying to un-f*ck themselves, the siblings are forced to go back home one last time. The Family Fang by […]

  3. Paperback Picks for April « alenaslife - April 29, 2012

    […] #CBR4 Review 15: The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson (hellokatieo.wordpress.com) […]

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