Review: The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson

WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

What is art? After you’ve seen it, framed and mounted in the museum, even a Monet or Picasso remain fixed in time. They are inanimate and capable only of one or two channels of emotional and intellectual communication. Art is not a painting, not a sculpture, not the photographs hanging in galleries – rather, it is the act of creation. Art is chaos, the unexpected, and the living reaction it evokes.

At least, that’s what the Fangs believe. For performance artists Caleb and Camille Fang, art is everything. It impacts every aspect of their lives – including how they raise their two children, labeled Child A and Child B. But growing up as stage props and catalysts for pandemonium has done little to prepare the children for life in the larger world. When unexpected circumstances force the dysfunctional family back together, can Annie and Buster find a way to heal from their chaotic upbringing and move forward in life?

WAS IT WORTH THE READ?

In a word: Yes! In two words: Well, maybe.

The Family Fang was an unexpected surprise page after page. It began as a memoir of sorts, quickly took a left into psychological healing, wove itself around mystery, and layered in not-so-subtle but open-ended philosophy. So much packed in between these covers!

The “art” produced by Caleb and Camille intrigued me. Surreal in its style, it was meant to shock and amaze. A boy (Buster) winning an all-female beauty pageant, only to be revealed after the crowning. Caleb, his coat set on fire, walking calmly through the mall while holding his infant child. Camille, feigning insanity, stealing pounds worth of jelly beans from the candy store. Each of these, and other, bizarre experiments are committed in the name of art.

However, as is often the case when anything comes before decent humanity, Caleb and Camille’s work came at the price of their children’s sanity. Painfully narcissistic, the adults have little to offer Annie and Buster in the way of socialization and stability. The entire book centers around the pit left in the now-grown children by their parents “higher calling”.

Out of five, The Family Fang is a four. If you’re a fan of intrigue, mystery, and psychological depth then read this book! If you might be triggered by themes of mental abuse, and chaotic family relationships, you might want to take a beat before picking it up. Over all, though, Wilson has produced an incredible story that I am deeply pleased to have read.

WHAT NEXT?

Maybe the heavy aspects of The Family Fang aren’t your thing, but you’re still looking for a good dark-comedy or commentary on modern art. Well, check out the titles linked below!

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Happy Reading!
– Bekah

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