ellaminnowpea

The Family Fang - Kevin Wilson I feel some kind of way about this book.

That's how I phrase it whenever I have a hard time putting vocabulary to my sentiments about something, if I can't decide whether those sentiments swing hot or cold. My friends think it's a ridiculous statement, which I suppose it is, and have turned it into what I hope is a loving inside joke. But I think it's the best way to describe how I felt about The Family Fang.

The concept here is simultaneously entirely original and tired. Or maybe it's an entirely original take on a tired concept? Caleb and Camille Fang are performance artists of the most extreme variety, meaning that they intentionally create chaotic situations in public spaces, film the general response, and call it their art. Their children, Annie and Buster, known by their stage names of Child A and Child B, are more or less forced to take part in these antics, as setpieces, as accessories, as catalysts. As the children grow older, they are increasingly mortified by their parents' art and flee from home at the first opportunity. Annie moves to Hollywood and becomes a legitimate actress and Buster is a once-promising novelist relegated to writing freelance pieces about potato guns and world-record orgies. Scandal and injury put the brakes on these careers, and both children find themselves back home in Eastern Tennessee trying to put themselves and each other back together. Then, Caleb and Camille go missing.

The notion of performance-artist parents, more interested in artistic expression than nurturing, is certainly a clever twist on the "coming of age" and "coming back home" tropes explored by this novel, but I often found myself frustrated that neither the parents nor the children were as fleshed out as I would have hoped. Annie and Buster are very, very funny characters and their amusing interactions with each other is ultimately what drives the plot. Wilson also has some really nifty one-liners peppered throughout the book, but the pacing didn't particularly grab me and I sometimes found myself bored, wondering if there was going to be any sort of pay-off.

The answer: kind of, but it wasn't particularly satisfying.

I enjoyed reading the book, but I never felt like singing its praises. Ultimately, I guess, I wanted this book to blow me away and it just didn't do that. I just...felt some kind of way about it.