The Amazing Telemachus Family was disgraced on national TV years ago and hasn’t been the same since. A generation later, and minus the family matriarch, Teddy and his now-grown children Irene, Frankie, and Buddy view their psychic gifts as more curse than blessing. Add into the works a mob boss calling in his due, a secret government program, plus all of the trappings of the early 1990s and you have the recipe for a raucous new novel by Daryl Gregory.
I’ll keep this review as spoiler-free as possible, but let me start off with a few comparative books and movies that came to mind. Spoonbenders has the hilarious dialogue of Arrested Development with all of the flawed and complex characterization of The Corrections. Unlike Franzen’s deeply unlikeable characters, however, Spoonbenders shows the depths– funny and tragic– while also keeping you solidly on the side of the Telemachus clan. Standout characters for me included Irene. She, perhaps more than her siblings, showed how truly double-edged a “talent” can be.
This novel is told in alternating perspectives from the POVs of family members. Each chapter advances the overall plot and helps describe the “how we got here” portion of the backstory. In my experience, it’s hard for an author to balance the back and front story, but Gregory did it with ease and I tore through this book in three solid sittings. At points, I even found the backstory portions of this novel hilariously Infinite Jesty. And while Gregory’s book delves into the weird with unabashed joy, it doesn’t range as far as David Foster Wallace does– to the book’s credit. Simply put, this book is a twisty family drama, heavy on the humor and light-to-medium on the sci-fi.
Completely taken by surprise by this book. Add it to your TBR if you’re looking for a funny, thrilling book.
Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory
Published by: Knopf on June 27, 2017