In South Florida I’m either floating around the pool with a book or hiding from the sun…with a book. Here’s the latest:
The Spoonbenders by Daryl GregoryWell, here’s a kooky bunch. Back in the day the (Amazing) Telemachus family were famous for their inexplicable talents. While dad, Teddy, was a proud con man, mom, Maureen, was an honest-to-goodness psychic. Together, they produced three children, each with special talents; Irene (human lie-detector), Frankie (tele-kinesis) and Buddy (mom’s psychic gene) and tried to make a name for themselves on the entertainment circuit, until a rival magician (complete with twisty mustache) showed Teddy to be a fake on national television. Fast-forward to 1995, Maureen has been dead for 20 years and Teddy has been a disengaged parent to three adult children who never learned how to control their…gifts. Irene’s fourteen-year-old son Matty has been trying in vain to get his family to talk about their past (did Grandma Mo really help the government during the Cold War?) as his own strange talents start to take shape. Mom is stubbornly tight-lipped but Uncle Frankie, who definitely inherited the scammer influence from his old man (and still bitter about their family’s defamation), is hoping young Matty can help reclaim the family fame aaaand help him get out of hot water with a bunch of loan sharks. Poor Buddy is basically a reclusive mute, waiting in silent anguish for a terrible event, that could harm his whole family. The dialogue is often hilarious and sounds like the real deal among parents and siblings. A clever, fun story, with strong charming characters.
This one had me at the snarky title. Siblings Alice and Paul dread attending their (evil?) older half-sisters wedding in England, but it’s obvious from the get-go that the bad blood may just stem from their own unsatisfying lives. That and the fact Eloise’s (the bride’s) father was loaded and they’re both completely jealous of her high end, sophisticated lifestyle. Alice has a mind-numbing job that includes an affair with her very wealthy, very married boss. Paul works for a possibly crazy therapy guru who believes in hard core immersion therapy for his phobic patients. He acquired the job after following his partner, Mark, from New York to Philly even though Mark was pretty tepid about Paul tagging along. Then there’s Donna, mother to all three, who’s been struggling in the middle-class ever since she left Eloise’s rich, philandering father and their fabulous life in Paris. In the months leading up to the wedding we get some seriously dysfunctional insight into the secrets and heartaches they’ve each endured during the past few years. When we finally meet Eloise she is certainly a privileged snob (but not hatefully so, like her stupid, snotty bridesmaids) but she’s also bending over backward to appease her very difficult family. When both Alice and Paul find there personal lives imploding overseas things get drunken, shouty and obviously very amusing.
Definitely heavier than the above titles, this novel starts with a slow burn and something amiss in the lush, priveledged enclave of Greenwich, CT in 2008. As summer on Long Island winds down, fourteen-year-old Madison senses some serious tension building between her icy mother, temperamental father and even the nurturing young nanny. Once school starts it becomes clear that Daddy’s bank is in distress. With her father holed up in New York City, her mother retreats to her bedroom leaving Madison to find facts among local gossip and the Internet. Told from varying points of view from family members, friends (real and spiteful) and employees, the richies have to face the fact that their gilded world is being trashed by the rest of society, which makes them feel very, very sorry for themselves. Having grown up in the neighboring and more diverse city of Stamford, CT, I am all too familiar with the Greenwich stereotypes, and while they certainly exist here, the implosion of this family both in denial and screaming ferocity makes them seem more human and less of a caricature. As Madison tries to uncover her fathers secrets, both personal and professional, the adults in this situation often act more like spoiled teenagers, shoving Madison into an early adulthood. Interesting and pretty tragic.