22 August 2011

Review: The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson

Note that a shorter version of this review was first published in Shelf Awareness for Readers on August 12, 2011

Performance artists Caleb and Camille Fang knew two things: No sacrifice for art was too big if "the outcome was beautiful enough, strange enough, [or] memorable enough" and "kids kill art." When Camille discovered she was pregnant, they found a way around the second fact. Their daughter, Annie, was incorporated into the action almost from birth. By the time Buster came along, the Fangs were performing as a family. Annie and Buster thus grew up as actors, taking on whatever persona was needed for their parents' current act and never breaking character, no matter what chaos ensued.

Beneath the surface of the fun and fast-paced The Family Fang, Kevin Wilson explores self-identity and families in the context of life lived as art. After years of sacrificing everything, even their names, to their parents' art, Annie and Buster struggle with recognizing reality. Almost no family outing was ever what it seemed to be on the surface, and the siblings learned to react to every mishap as if it were orchestrated. Once when Caleb fell in a grocery store, Buster immediately played a familiar role in a performance piece, showing no concern for his bleeding father until he was told it was an accident.

After a childhood of assumed identities, in which virtually every move was thought of in terms of how it would play out to some undefined audience, it's no surprise that the young Fangs picked careers that required direction: Annie became a screen actor and Buster, a journalist. After a couple of professional mishaps, the siblings find themselves back in their parents' home, but this time they aren't playing along with the family business.

Although Annie and Buster are determined to end the cycle of manipulation by their parents, they can't quite grasp the idea that life isn't scripted. It's only when the two are forced to question the truth of an extreme performance by Caleb and Camille that they can muster the strength to break from their parents. With that break, however, comes Annie and Buster's first taste of independence; are they up to the challenge?

Regardless of the facts of the life-changing situation, Wilson makes us wonder who's in charge: Did Caleb and Camille, having merged life and performance, foresee—or even purposely create—the split with their children? Or did Annie and Buster, having rejected their parents' realities, simply forfeit their place in the family Fang?

The Family Fang is an Indie Next pick for August 2011. To learn more about author Kevin Wilson, visit his website and his blog.

Beth Fish Reads is proud to showcase Ecco books as a featured imprint on this blog. For more information about Ecco, please read the introductory note from Vice President / Associate Publisher Rachel Bressler, posted here on July 15, 2011. Find your next great read by clicking on Ecco in the scroll-down topics/labels list in my sidebar and by visiting Ecco books on Facebook and following them on Twitter.

The Family Fang at Powell's
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Published by HarperCollins / Ecco, 2011
ISBN-13: 9780061579035
Source: Review (see review policy)
Rating: B+
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)


Zibilee 8/22/11, 6:35 AM  

I have been reading a lot about this book, and many people seem to be excited about it. I admit that it sounds very intriguing to me, for many reasons, and I have to say that the weird relationship between parents and children in this one really piques my interest. I don't think I can ignore this one for long!

Beth Kephart 8/22/11, 7:00 AM  

Like Zibilee, this book keeps arising on the horizon for me. It might be a must have.

(how are you?)

Sandy Nawrot 8/22/11, 7:14 AM  

Well, Entertainment Weekly was the first one to wave this book in front of my face, now several of you have done the same. I'm milling around and waiting to see if it is going to come out on audio...

Julie P. 8/22/11, 7:28 AM  

This was such a treat for me. Truly unlike any other book I've ever read!

Beth Hoffman 8/22/11, 8:06 AM  

I think I need to add this to my list; it sounds so unique.

Happy Monday, Candace!

Sheila (Bookjourney) 8/22/11, 8:40 AM  

I am interested in this one, the more I see it around the more I want to try it.

Serena 8/22/11, 9:21 AM  

I really enjoyed your shorter review in Shelf Awareness. Its a book I would definitely consider reading.

quirky girls 8/22/11, 9:27 AM  

This was a very thoughtful review. I recently read another review on a different blog. The blogger was not taken by this book at all. It is interesting to see how what one person likes another person doesn't. I will probably check this one out eventually as I usually enjoy stories featuring dysfunctional families.


Julie @ Read Handed 8/22/11, 10:58 AM  

They just reviewed this book in Time, and it got very high praise. Sounds quirky and strange, but in a good way!

bermudaonion 8/22/11, 3:37 PM  

This sounds like a fun, quirky read!

Amused 8/22/11, 10:52 PM  

This book sounds super unusual. I can't wait to read it!

Michelle 8/23/11, 5:09 AM  

This one sounds like it has good cross over appeal for the YA crowd.

Harvee 8/23/11, 11:52 AM  

A book that is on my wish list.

Margot 8/23/11, 12:00 PM  

At first I wasn't sure this was for me but I keep reading so many good things. I will probably succumb as it looks very thought provoking.

Kailana 8/23/11, 10:05 PM  

I am curious about this book. I actually requested it from the library, so hopefully it will be in for me soon.

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