Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory

Posted On 18 July 2017

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spoon1I loved this book, it’s my first by this author but on the strength of this one I’m keen to go and check out more of his work.  To be honest I wasn’t sure if this would be for me, it doesn’t really sound like there’s going to be much fantasy and I must admit that when I started the book it reads like a contemporary family saga, and yet there is so much more to this as I soon found out.  Within the first few pages I was intrigued by the Telemachus family, they worked their magic on me and pretty soon I was tearing through the pages desperate to know what came next.  A clever story, full of emotion,  great characterisation and laugh out loud moments. Imagine the dysfunctional Royal Tenenbaums, but with psychic abilities thrown into the mix, meets the Sopranos.  Magic, the mob, a sprinkling of love and a twisting over arching storyline that will keep you gripped. What’s not to love?

The Telemachus family have psychic abilities.  For a brief spell during the 1970s they looked set to achieve fame as the whole family appeared on tv, each using their abilities for a different act to wow the audience.  Unfortunately things didn’t quite pan out and the family retreated home in shame and this incident, followed fairly soon afterwards by family loss, left them all wanting little more than to live normal lives.  Now jump forwards approximately 20 years and witness the family as they all struggle with their own problems and witness the absurdly crazy events as they spiral further and further into the genius that makes up the grand finale of this story.

This is a story that jumps back to the past, allowing plot lines of espionage and the Cold War to creep in, but also jumps forward into the future (depending on whose storyline you’re currently reading) so that you can glimpse intriguing snippets of what is yet to come.  I was so impressed, in fact more than impressed, staggered at the way this story comes together. There are so many plates spinning here that I was on the edge of my seat waiting for the inevitable crash, which, unbelievably, never came.  This truly is a masterfully told story and on top of that its tense with anticipation, I was reading and alternately shaking my head or nodding or laughing or just plain wanting to jump to the conclusion to kill the suspense!

What really shines for me in this story are the characters.  All of them are so well rounded.  You know that you’re in love with a character when you find yourself wishing you could meet them or be part of what they’ve got going on and as crazy as the Telemachus family is I found that to be the case here, and not just with one character but them all.  The father is Teddy.  He’s the one exception to the rule as he has no psychic ability at all.  He’s a conman, even down to his made up Greek heritage and yet he manages to marry the woman of his dreams after he was wowed by her at their first meeting.  Call it love at first sight if you will.  Maureen is probably one of the world’s greatest psychics and all of her children inherited some form of ability from her.  Irene is the human lie detector, Frankie can move objects and Buddy can predict the future. Sounds almost too good to be true and yet at the start of the story their strange abilities have not prevented them from free falling into dire straits.  Irene is now bringing up her son Matty alone, cash problems have forced her to return to the family home and she’s working long hours, in a job that she doesn’t enjoy, for minimum pay.  Frankie’s own company has gone bust.  He’s working hard but he has massive debts and has found himself in over his head with the mob.  And Buddy, well, he seems to have retreated into his own world, he very rarely talks and is constantly working on ‘projects’ of his own that are unfathomable to everyone else.  Now add in the next generation and all their mixed emotions, especially the teenagers and their own budding talents that are just becoming apparent.  Between them they gave me moments of reflection a lot of entertainment, a number of laughs at the sagas of everyday life and genuine feelings for this oddball family.

I don’t really want to say too much more.  I really liked that this is a standalone novel.  I love that it has a storyline that seems to be playing second fiddle until it becomes apparent that it’s the key to the whole thing and I think there’s almost a message here about being careful what you wish for.  The Telemachus family are all talented but their own special abilities have not led them to be happy, and in a world where people are constantly wishing to be the next supernatural, immortal or magical character that they read about I found this refreshingly different.

I’m probably not doing this book credit so I’ll finish by saying, if you’re reading this review and it hasn’t convinced you to pick this up, then ignore everything I’ve said and pick it up anyway.  I simply can’t imagine anyone not enjoying this book and I want everyone to give it a shot.

I received a copy from the publisher through Netgalley, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

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