Novel Filled With Dysfunction and Mystery
The Family Fang
By Kevin Wilson
BY KATRINA DENZA
Special to The Pilot
There isn't a vampire to be found in Kevin Wilson's "The Family Fang," though the wit and dark humor in this imaginative debut novel does have a sharp bite.
Caleb and Camille Fang spend their time creating wildly absurd performance art. When their children enter their lives, first Annie, then Buster, the Fangs find ways to incorporate Child A and Child B into their act.
In one of the performances, the parents set their young children up in front of a gathering crowd, a guitar case open for donations, a sign explaining money collected will help pay for a dog's operation.
Each child has been instructed to bang away on instruments they have no idea how to play, and after the size of the crowd has grown to a respectable number, Caleb Fang stands in the back and heckles the children so that he can videotape the "art" such a scenario creates.
Years later, it's apparent that all that time spent participating in their parents' living art has taken its toll. Annie becomes an actress whose bad decisions have affected her career, and Buster is a writer of modest success trying to keep his most recent failures from discouraging him from living.
Both adult children return to their parents' home in Tennessee to regroup, but if they're looking for parental nurturing, not only will they not find it from Caleb and Camille, but eventually, their parents will disappear altogether.
On their way to another performance, police find Caleb and Camille's van abandoned just over the North Carolina border, Caleb's bloodstains suggesting foul play.
Suddenly the Fangs' odd answering machine message holds a new, darker meaning:
"The Fangs are dead. Leave a message after the tone and our ghosts will return your call."
Child A and Child B are left to figure out the truth of what happened to their parents, and although their detective work uncovers some wild twists that will leave you shaking your head, the twists will also feel inevitable and completely within the realm of Fang reality.
"The Family Fang" is one of the most original depictions of family dysfunction I've ever read, and even while the absurdity of situations elicit a laugh, there's a palpable undercurrent of sadness to the story.
The Fang parents' narcissism, though hilarious, is also maddening in its stubborn persistence. Wilson's prose is always on point, and what makes this novel so exceptional is that the story feels organic and fresh as if the writer was as pulled along by the Fang Family as we are, helpless to do anything but follow their crazy path through to the end.
Katrina Denza's stories have been published in several literary magazines. She keeps a literary blog at www.katdenza.blogspot.com.
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