The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson – Review

The family FangThe Family Fang by Kevin Wilson
Age: Adult
Genre: Fiction
Source: My copy
Publisher: Ecco, 2011
ISBN: 9780061579035, 309 pages
Find this book at your local library

Caleb and Camille Fang dedicated their lives and their children’s lives to making great art, which falls into the realm of subverting normality and causing scenes of chaos. For as long as Annie and Buster Fang, Child A and Child B, can remember they have had starring roles (sometimes unwillingly) in their parents’ pieces. Now that they are grown up, the chaos of their childhood has made it difficult for them to cope with life away from their parents. 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 greatest feat yet.  Soon, the Fangs to face the difficult decision about what’s ultimately more important: their family or their art.

This is definitely one of my favorite books of the year. Its well-written, thoughtful, moving, with just the right amounts of dark humor spread throughout the novel. The chapters alternate between the Family Fang performance pieces, and the lives of Annie and Buster as they fall apart, and struggle to put makes things whole again. It’s an interesting character study, but Wilson didn’t delve too far into the psychology of why the Fangs are such a dysfunctional family.

Camille and Caleb are obsessively consumed by the need to make great art. The why and how their kids got sucked into their work is explained later on in the novel. Although Annie goes on to be a famous actress and Buster a well-known author, neither has any foundation of stability in their lives. When things fall apart and they both return home, they retreat into themselves, hiding from the world. The final performance piece done by their parents puts Annie and Buster into a situation in which they end up helping themselves cope with their frustrating lives and taking steps towards normalcy.

I really have no complaints about this book. I read through some LibraryThing reviews, focusing mainly on the 1-star & 2-star reviews, but I didn’t agree with any of the complaints. The book was humorous, but it’s not a comedy. Its insightful, but not pretentious. The characters are well-rounded and despite their faults, they are lovable. The concept is quirky, and for me the novel felt short. I wanted to know more about Caleb and Camille. What led them to this insane drive to create art, not caring about the toll their art took on their kids.

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