Category: General Fiction (Adult)
Author: Daryl Gregory
Format: Hardcover, 410 pages
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Pub Date: June 27, 2017
Summary from Publisher:
The Telemachus family is known for performing inexplicable feats on talk shows and late-night television. Teddy, a master conman, heads up a clan who possess gifts he only fakes: there’s Maureen, who can astral project; Irene, the human lie detector; Frankie, gifted with telekinesis; and Buddy, the clairvoyant. But when, one night, the magic fails to materialize, the family withdraws to Chicago where they live in shame for years. Until: As they find themselves facing a troika of threats (CIA, mafia, unrelenting skeptic), Matty, grandson of the family patriarch, discovers a bit of the old Telemachus magic in himself. Now, they must put past obstacles behind them and unite like never before. But will it be enough to bring The Amazing Telemachus Family back to its amazing life?
- From Goodreads
What’s fantastic about the book, Spoonbenders, is how ordinary its characters are even amidst their extraordinary powers. While Maureen McKinnon is the gifted psychic; Teddy Telemachus, a slick card shark; and their three children: Irene, a human lie detector; Frankie, an emotional telekinetic; and Buddy, a boy with an astounding gift to see into the future—these characters could easily take over the world with their powers alone, but reveal instead a vulnerable family with insecurities, mishaps, and personal burdens.
The wonder of their extrasensory perception, better known as ESP, is blunted by the logistics of what it means to live an ordinary life with extraordinary gifts—which doesn’t make their gifts less interesting, but quite the opposite. If anything, the Telemachus Family in its heartbreaking ambition to be a powerful act of “magic” and mystery, still leaves residue of loss and what could have been.
Instead, their failure as a family act of members with varying degrees of ESP gifts—while failing to impress the international world—have not escaped the interest of the government, in particular, a man named Destin Smalls, a CIA operative nearly obsessed with the use and potential of the Telemachus Family in the government’s war against espionage.
With an adamant CIA operative fiercely attentive to the family’s every move, members of the mob also enter the mix to ensure a chaotic uproar in the novel’s plot. But wait—there’s also love (and lust) behind small peepholes, grocery aisles, and late-night chat message boards. Not to mention the innuendo of potential fire risks and the inexplicable projects, which include pink crayon, a dug hole, linoleum tile outside instead of inside the house, and a tumultuous trip to the casino, Alton Belle. There are secondary characters, too, who are almost as influential as the main characters: Malice, Graciella, Danny, and Cerise.
Together these characters create a plot of absurdity and fun; and a climax that seems almost out of a slapstick, comedic film. Yet, beneath the busy chaos, runs a sadness of loss, of untimely death; of the burden of knowledge; and the loneliness of being different.
While the novel isn’t as thought-provoking as its lyrical and serious, literary peers, the Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory is an entertaining romp through a fictional world of the paranormal and its extrasensory gifts, one driven by an imaginative and playful author.
Characters: 3.5 stars
Plot: 3 stars
Language/Narrative: 3 stars
Dialogue: 3.5 stars
Pacing: 3.5 stars
Cover Design: 3 stars
A special thanks to Penguin Random House Canada on behalf of Bond Street Books for providing me with a hardcover of the book, Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory in exchange for an honest and timely review.
About the Author:
Award-winning author of Spoonbenders, We Are All Completely Fine, Afterparty, Pandemonium, and others. Some of his short fiction has been collected in Unpossible and Other Stories.
He’s won the World Fantasy Award, as well as the Shirley Jackson, Crawford, Asimov Readers, and Geffen awards, and his work has been short-listed for many other awards, including the Nebula . His books have been translated in over a dozen languages, and have been named to best-of-the-year lists from NPR Books, Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, and Library Journal.
He is also the writer of Flatline an interactive fiction game from 3 Minute Games, and comics such as Planet of the Apes.
Daryl lives in Oakland, California.
- From Goodreads