Saturday, August 6, 2011

Book Review - The Family Fang: A Novel by Kevin Wilson

Title: The Family Fang: A Novel
Author: Kevin Wilson
Year: 2011
Page: 320
Genre: Fiction 

FTC Disclosure: ARC from HarperCollins in exchange for an unbiased review

Summary (from
Mr. and Mrs. Fang called it art.

Their children called it mischief.

Performance artists Caleb and Camille Fang dedicated themselves to making great art. But when an artist’s work lies in subverting normality, it can be difficult to raise well-adjusted children. Just ask Buster and Annie Fang. For as long as they can remember, they starred (unwillingly) in their parents’ madcap pieces. But now that they are grown up, the chaos of their childhood has made it difficult to cope with life outside the fishbowl of their parents’ strange world.

When the lives they’ve built come crashing down, brother and sister have nowhere to go but home, where they discover that Caleb and Camille are planning one last performance–their magnum opus–whether the kids agree to participate or not. Soon, ambition breeds conflict, bringing the Fangs to face the difficult decision about what’s ultimately more important: their family or their art

First Sentence:
Mr. and Mrs. Fang called it art.

My Thoughts:

  • I decided to pick this ARC to review because this sounds like a fun book. Something quirky. Something I normally won't pick and I want to be surprised!
  • When I first started this book, I had no idea where it was going. When I was in the middle of the book, I had no idea where it was going.  I almost gave up the book then, but thought I'd stick with it since I had no idea where it was going, and may be I'd surprised by the turn of events. As I neared the end of the book, I had no idea where it was going. After I finished reading the book, I still had idea what the book was trying to tell me. I guess in short, this book really wasn't for me.
  • The chapters alternated between past and present. During the past, it was about one of the "performances" the Fangs put together. During the present, it was alternated between Annie (Child A) and Buster (Child B), the two Fang children as adults. I did like that format, as it gave us a glimpse of how Annie and Buster got to where they were today. But it was almost like just reading vignettes of their lives, and nothing really happened until about half way through the book [SPOILER] when their parents disappeared, and the cops feared they had been kidnapped by a serial killer. It got a little bit more interesting then, and I wanted to find out what happened to them. Were they killed, or was it just one of their acts? [/SPOILER] I still think the pacing was a bit too slow for my liking. The twist just kinda happened, without any climax.
  • I also didn't like any of the characters. Mr and Mrs Fang were dysfunctional parents, but I understood they were just passionate about their "art". I just didn't agree with their "art". While I felt bad for Annie and Buster for what they had to go through, I didn't like them as adults either. I was hoping this would be a more inspiring story, that the plot and character development would be different. 
  • I just wasn't emotionally invested in the book. In the end, I just really didn't care about the characters, and how the book ended didn't win me over either. It wasn't so much an ending as just another vignette. 
  • Some reviewers said they found the book funny. I didn't think I laughed out loud once. I guess it was just not my sense of humor. Some had compared it to The Royal Tenenbaums. I had never watched this movie, so wouldn't know if it was a good comparison. 
  • I guess just as most people who didn't appreciate the Fang's art in the book, I couldn't appreciate this book either. Maybe like Caleb Fang (the dad) said, it's not to appreciate, but to experience" (see quote below.)
  • But don't let my review stop you from reading this book, if you like reading about quirky characters from a dysfunctional family. This is definitely more of a character-driven than plot-driven books. In fact, currently there are 57 reviews on goodreads (none on amazon yet as this book is not out until next Tuesday 8/9/11), all of them are 3 stars or above (11 3-stars, 29 4-stars and 16 5-stars), except mine. So yeah, it's probably just me.


"It was so perfect," Caleb had explained to Annie when she was still a child. "He forced the art onto unsuspecting people; he made them a part of the piece, and they didn't even know it."

"But if they didn't know what was going on," Annie asked, confused, "how would they appreciate it?"

"They're not supposed to appreciate it," Caleb said, slightly disappointed with her. "They're supposed to experience it." (p194)

He tried to think of all the people in his life as chemicals, the uncertainty of mixing them together, the potential for explosions and scarring. (p239)

Overall Rating:
1 Star. It took me 6 days to read and I wished I had spent the time reading something else from my big pile of To-Be-Read books. Fang's art is not for everybody, just as this book is not for me.

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  1. I have never heard of this one. The first sentence and your review have me intrigued still I look forward to more reviews.

  2. @Marce - I haven't really seen this one yet on the blogs I subscribed to. Maybe after next week when it comes out there will be more reviews. I haven't heard of this author before but there was a blurb from Ann Patchett on the back cover (if it means anything.)

  3. I just heard of this one on goodreads yesterday and was thinking that it sounded like a delightful read. Bummer that it didn't work that well!

  4. @Aths - like I said, I am the odd reviewer out, so take my review with a grain of salt! :)

  5. Wow! I hate it when books are like that. You never know which popular book is going to be the one that strikes that way either. Amazon recommended this one to me today. I have to say that the title and the cover did nothing to entice me. I will keep my eyes out for other reviews, but I respect your opinion. :)

  6. I'm so sorry that this one didn't work for you! :(

  7. @Alyce - I seems to have weird taste... there are lots of books that others like and I don't :) So I'd definitely check out other reviews to see if this one is for you!

    @Julie - Me too :( But ah well, I am still glad I read, even if just to know this is not for me!

  8. Hello! I have an account in goodreads, but I do not know how to use it. Do I need to purchase the book first for me to able to read it. Thank you :)

    I need to make a synopsis of the book 'The Family Fang'...:(

  9. Great book! It is an easy read as you won't want to stop without knowing what possible mischief the characters will either get in to or be a part of. If you thought your family was "dis-functional", you'll feel really good knowing that this family changes the definition of the word.
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