I ripped through another book due to my prolonged summer cold. By the way, I do not recommend getting a summer cold. It ruins your weekend and turns you into an escargot snot factory. I don’t often get sick, but when I do, I really go all out on it.
But I digress. Over the past few days I read Spoonbenders, by Daryl Gregory. My wife recommended it, but I went into it with somewhat low expectations given my enjoyment of Bone and Thunder and this being a very different sort of novel. It far surpassed that novel, in plot, characters and overall writing.
Spoonbenders tells the story of the Telemachus family, once on the verge of fame for their psychic abilities. But fame was snatched away due to an ill-favored appearance on the Mike Douglas show, and now they are living in the mid-90’s a life full of quiet lower middle class desperation. This is a book with a strong cast of characters, well written and rounded. Teddy is the elder patriarch, a trickster who knows all the slight of hand needed to be a solid card shark, but not much of a father to his kids. His wife, Maureen, has passed away by the time of the novel, but was able to astral project herself anywhere she could imagine herself to be. They have two sons, Buddy (introverted and reclusive) and Frankie (talkative and desperate to reclaim some measure of fame/wealth), as well as a daughter, Irene (the only adult remaining since mom’s death). All of them have different psychic powers, as do most of the grandchildren.
It’s a complicated plot, and the novel is framed from the perspective of multiple characters. Each chapter jumps back and forth in the focus character’s life, dealing with the present-day story of what’s happening as well as some vital moment in their past. Yet for all that, it’s never an uncomfortable or hard to understand story. It’s almost a loving tribute to the hucksters and charlatans of our world, the psychic hot line artists and slight of hand magicians. There’s even another character who is clearly based on James Randy, the famous debunker of psychics. And through all this plot, we get to explore each characters particular foibles and fears, their triumphs and failures. Imagine: you learn you can astral project for the first time, but it turns out it only happens when you’re doing something you really should NOT be doing in mixed company (I can say no more without spoiling the plot). Oh, and a shout out for including AOL and early internet dating as a plot mechanism, well done and explored.
This is a fantastically well-written story with some great magical realism built into it. I give it my highest courtesy and say “this is how I want to write.” On the Reynolds Wrap scale, I give it 10 out of 10 pieces of aluminum foil, and we’ll toss in a set of steel belted radials to go along with that. Very enjoyable book, I can’t recommend it enough.