Mr. and Mrs. Fang called it art. Their children called it mischief.
Performance artists Caleb and Camille Fang dedicated themselves to making great art. But when an artist's work lies in subverting normality, it can be difficult to raise well-adjusted children. Just ask Buster and Annie Fang. For as long as they can remember, they starred (unwillingly) in their parents' madcap pieces. But now that they are grown up, the chaos of their childhood has made it difficult to cope with life outside the fishbowl of their parents' strange world.
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 magnum opus - whether the kids agree to participate or not. Soon, ambition breeds conflict, bringing the Fangs to face the difficult decision about what's ultimately more important: their family or their art.
Filled with Kevin Wilson's endless creativity, vibrant prose, sharp humor, and keen sense of the complex performances that unfold in the relationships of people who love one another, The Family Fang is a masterfully executed tale that is as bizarre as it is touching.
©2011 Kevin Wilson (P)2011 Audible, Inc.
"The Family Fang sparkles with Kevin Wilson’s inventive dialogue and wonderfully rendered set-pieces that capture the surreal charm of the Fang’s most notable work. With this brilliant novel, the family Fang is destined to join the families Tenenbaum and Bluth as paragons of high dysfunction." (Amazon.com review; Amazon Best Books of the Month, August 2011)
I rate as follows: 5 Stars = Loved it. 4 Stars = Really liked it. 3 Stars = Liked it. 2 Stars = Didn't like it. 1 Star = Hated it.
In my opinion, this book is more of an art project than a novel. I remember sitting on a bench in a large gallery in the Louvre. The large, framed painting hung on the wall in front of me showed a scene of ANOTHER large gallery in ANOTHER museum, with some OTHER people sitting on a bench, looking at the painting in front of THEM...
This book is like that. It’s a story of a married couple that are performance artists. They spend their lives trying to manipulate people into being upset and uncomfortable. The fact that their parents do this makes our main characters (the couple’s children) upset, and uncomfortable. As a result of this, and in experiencing how this repeatedly hurts these vulnerable, damaged kids, it is now the you, the reader, who will become upset, and uncomfortable.
What does home and family really mean? If qualities such as loyalty, constancy, and a sense of safety are absent, does it cease to truly BE home and family? At what point do you have the right to walk away? And if you believe you have earned that right... is it even possible to do so?
These questions rise to the surface as Annie and Buster, now grown from damaged kids to damaged adults find themselves with nowhere to turn but the very childhood home that damaged them in the first place. When something happens that could be a tragedy, the siblings have to ask themselves; is the tragedy actually a reality? Or is it just another presentation of their parents art? If their parents ARE behind the events, isn’t that just as tragic? Their parents have manipulated the siblings into being unwitting, living props so many times, they no longer know the difference between what’s real, and what’s “pretend”. As a reader of the book, I came to the conclusion that there was no difference at all between the two.
Through all of this however, the underlining foundation of the book was of love; the true, deep, abiding love of two siblings. It was beautiful.
The dénouement left me feeling a little dead inside, sad, and very tired; but the author was kind enough to spend the last 15 minutes of the story gentling moving us back to solid ground, ending the story with a safe place to land before he leaves you. I was extremely grateful for that.
This book is not for everyone. Some will not find the humor funny, or the underlining themes interesting. For some readers, the author’s attempt at making YOU uncomfortable will be so successful you’ll hate the book.. In the end, I was glad I read it. I found it very thought provoking, and utterly original. The narration was also top rate, and I’ll be looking out for more of the narrator’s work.
I’m looking forward to seeing future reviews on this book to read what others thought of this difficult, but very worthwhile, story.
I grabbed this novel on a whim because it was featured on a banner ad when I came to the Audible site. I am SO glad I did. This story is very well written and the characters are unique and competently developed. The story is interesting and often unpredictable, which makes it enjoyable all the way to the end.
And I have found a new narrator! Up until now, Davina Porter has been my favorite narrator due to her ability to really manipulate voices and bring a variety of characters to lfe with her voice. Therese Plummer is spectacular at this. She really breathes life into this already good novel and give you a cast of characters, each unique in their own voices. This book, unlike most that I've read or listened to, had a complete ending. When the story was over, I was done. I didn't have questions, I didn't wish it would go on...the story was over. And I liked that. It left me free to appreciate it and move on to the next book in my library with a sense of closure.
This one is definitely worth the credit.
This was one of those books that I expected would fill my drive to work nicely, but I didn't really start listening with huge expectations for a lasting impression. I was very pleasantly surprised to find myself totally drawn in by the reader, laughing out loud within the first 5 minutes of the Fang family's first "event." The story is great, but it's the detail with which their individual and collective personalities are shaped that makes this such a great listen. Even during the funniest moments, there is a lingering sadness which follows the family, and during their saddest moments there is still a bizarre humor which eases their awkward pain. Therese Plummer's performance is hypnotic, and she renders each character's voice uniquely - usually I shut off my book when I pull into my driveway and resume it the next morning on my way to work, but Plummer made it impossible to find a good place to end it. I ended up listening to this while I did dishes, while I folded laundry, pretty much any time I could think of a chore to justify it. The last chapter I gave up looking for pretext, got into bed and listened through to the end before falling asleep. The author makes art a character in the story, fittingly the type of chaotic art that his characters chase and/or avoid so fervently. He makes emotion a tangible thing that you can visualize as you listen, seeing it in color and movement. I cannot recommend this book highly enough, and I will look for more books read by the narrator.
This is a really funny and ridiculous book, esp. if you know your contemporary/performance art. Characters are really well described and plot keeps you interested.
Buster Fang, because he's so hapless. He's the absurd underdog you just can't resist.
Dry reading is perfect for these jokes, but the reading is also just right. I especially liked how she read the part of Camilla Fang, who had some truly enigmatic responses.
If you like Sedaris, you might like this novel. It's not essays, but humor works in some of the same ways.
Very ... interesting story. I didn't *love* it, but enjoyed it well enough. The author did a great job developing the characters, and I really felt for child "a" and child "b." An interesting look at what constitutes "art" and the effect it (and Caleb and Camille) has on the Fang's children.
No. I can't think of a friend who I believe would enjoy it.
It is probably perfect for someone who wants to read about intentional dysfunction, chaos without payoff, and a random acts of unkindness. Randomness can be charming, but in this case I found it unembracable.
The whacked out psycho mom. Her pathetic character is so well defined.
I'd pass. Life is too short for so-so books.
i like to read. i like to listen.
i think Therese Plummer narrated this just fine. but the book itself couldn't be saved by a good narrator.
so, kevin wilson writes really well. simple but lovely prose, with just enough emotion. the relationship between buster and annie was very intense and touching and beautiful. annie was a great character...truly and understandably f'ed up...and very interesting in the way that great characters are. i think that her character would have been so much better in a different story -- then i think -- if she wasn't in this story, she wouldn't be who she is -- then i think i'm thinking too much about it, so i stop.
anyway...there are also some struggles i had with this story. i truly disliked camille and caleb fang. so much. from the first moment i read about them. it was so difficult for me to embrace them as characters. they were unbelievable. they were loathsome. the art they produced was dumb. and i don't think that they, as written in this story, would have gotten to the level of popularity that they achieved in this story. i also think that the "resolution" with caleb and camille towards the end of the book is very abrupt and i don't understand it at all.
overall, the story is well written...and i guess it evokes emotion in me and so that it's successful in that way, but i didn't actually enjoy listening to it.
Probably nothing. The story was so annoying.
Had decent performance art. The Fangs' was just boring.
Her boy's voice was annoying.
I have no idea why this book got awards. I am not a fan of performance art but these performance artists were so lame. I couldn't wait for the book to end (I listened to the audiobook) and because I bought it, was determined to get to the end. It just seemed totally pointless.
Loved everything about this book: the story, the characters, the impeccable narration. It's a great book if you like novels about children whose first (and perhaps greatest) accomplishment is to survive their weird, messed up families. (You will want to run the Fang parents over in your car, but you will also be cheering for Child A and Child B, Annie and Buster, the whole way through.) It`s also a great book about art and what it means to create something. Usually I hate reading descriptions of art in books, but the Fangs' horrible performance pieces were an awful delight.
Wilson's is a really original approach to the family dysfunction novel, through the metaphor of performance art. A refreshingly creative achievement. The narrator is exceptionally good.
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