PLOT- Annie and Baxter Fang are middle-aged siblings attempting to create their own artistic identities, but are constantly plagued by a childhood of trauma inflicted by their parents, Caleb and Camille. Caleb and Camille are famous performance artists, who never intended on having children. Initially, they feared that their children would negatively impact their art, but they decided to turn it around, and use their kids to make artistic statements. The Fangs were famous for creating improvised events at places like malls and restaurants, inflicting uncomfortable scenarios on unwitting suspects, including sometimes their own children, when they wanted to get an authentic reaction.
Adult Annie and Baxter have each hit a snag in their careers and need their parents help. They've returned home for just a few days, when Caleb and Camille disappear. Could this be another performance, or are the elder Fangs in danger?
LIKE- The premise and characters are quirky in a way that's similar to a Wes Anderson film. Anderson did not have anything to do with the film adaptation of The Family Fang, but the story has his off-beat vibe.
Wilson's story has a very poignant moment midway through, when Annie and Baxter, who have initially eschewed police help in finding their parents, certain that it is another game their parents are playing, realize that they might be wrong. They both have a turn, when they not only want to find their parents, but are starting to think about life without them. Annie and Baxter own the wrong that their parents have inflicted on them, but also feel a sense of loss. I intensely related to this moment, it made me think of when my aunt passed. We had so much conflict in the years before she died, but I also loved her so very much. This turn is the most emotional point in novel.
Many of Camille and Caleb's stunts are unimaginative, stuff like making a scene at a store in the mall. Their confidence and snobby attitude about what constitutes art, coupled with their feelings towards their children, immediately put me on the side of Annie and Baxter. Admittedly, at first, I was wondering why their art projects seemed so simplistic and dull? Couldn't Wilson come up with anything better? But no, that wasn't it at all. I was missing the point that Camille and Caleb are ridiculous. They have these very regimented ideas of what it means to create art and they value it above all else, including other people. They force their ideas on others, force reactions. It also dawned on me that most of their art is done in the 1980's and 90's. The need for intensity and extreme, wasn't what it is now.
DISLIKE- Through a majority of the story, I felt a disconnect. I wasn't gripped and although I read it in about four days, I did read other books at the same time. I know I'm grabbed, when I refuse to put a book down until I finish it. This was not the case.
RECOMMEND- Maybe. Wilson has created a quirky world and even if I felt a disconnect, I'm still thinking about, The Family Fang. I'm curious enough to check out the film adaptation, which stars Nicole Kidman and Jason Bateman as the adult Annie and Baxter.