Annie and Buster Fang have spent most of their adult lives trying to distance themselves from their famous artist parents, Caleb and Camille. But when a bad economy and a few bad personal decisions converge, the two siblings have nowhere to turn but their family home. Reunited under one roof for the first time in more than a decade, Buster and Annie are forced to confront not only their creatively ambitious parents, but the chaos and confusion of their childhood.
...it's such a minty fresh delight to open up Kevin Wilson's debut novel,...and feel the revitalizing blast of original thought, robust invention, screwball giddiness ... This premise could easily have devolved into pop psychodrama, but think, instead, of something like Little Miss Sunshine — a family story that's out-of-the-box, and funny, and, also, genuinely moving. Wilson's inventive genius never stops for a rest break ... Early on in the novel, we're told that the strange art the Fangs create has been glowingly described by critics as 'choreographed spontaneity.' Wilson might as well have been writing a review for his own strange and wonderful novel, for The Family Fang indeed reads as a work of 'choreographed spontaneity' that will linger in your mind long after the mall has closed and the mess in the restaurant has been cleaned up.
...[an] inventive and hilarious debut novel ... Mr. Wilson's depictions of the blithely cannibalistic nature of the movie industry are worthy of Bruce Wagner, the modern master of Hollywood satire ... Even grown up, Buster and Annie find it hard to shake the fear that they have no reality other than as performance pieces.But the two are artists themselves, an actress and a writer. As The Family Fang unfolds a cunning and comic final act, they bravely subsume themselves in their callings, finding a means to recover their identities. This is complex psychological ground, and the 32-year-old Mr. Wilson navigates it with a calm experience that his tender age shouldn't allow.
The Family Fang...in less adroit hands might have been a string of twee, deadpan moments and not much more. But Mr. Wilson, though he writes wittily about various outré Fang performance pieces, resists putting too much emphasis on the family gimmick. These events have name...and dates and artistic goals. But they also have consequences. That’s what makes this novel so much more than a joke. Mr. Wilson explores the damage inflicted on children raised in an atmosphere that is intentionally confusing ... Although Mr. Wilson sometimes hints too neatly at where his book is headed, he manages to make the final stages genuinely shocking. This last part of The Family Fang packs a wallop because the rest of the book has been so quirky and seemingly light. But the stakes in the Fang war of wills get higher as the book proceeds, and they move from the specific to the universal ... Mr. Wilson...has created a memorable shorthand for describing parent-child deceptions and for ways in which creative art and destructive behavior intersect. But he never generalizes.