Spoonbenders – Review

“The thing about skeletons was, you never knew how much space they were taking up in the closet until you got rid of them.”

Spoonbenders is a funny story about a family. This particular family, the Amazing Telemachus Family, is a family of psychics. Each with abilities to astound and dazzle. Except, they don’t really work, and maybe they don’t exist at all.

In each chapter we meet Teddy, the family patriarch; Irene, the human lie detector; Frankie, who can move objects with his mind; Buddy, who can see the future; and Matty, Irene’s son and who recently discovered he can astral project.

Each chapter is told through one of their eyes, and they alternate the narrative, driving the both the plot forward and filling in the gaps of the past through their own perspective.

This novel is a story of misunderstanding, miscommunication and misperceptions.All families have secrets. Big secrets that we pray never sees the light of day. Little secrets that we hope never come out, but would cause little damage if they did. And a myriad of white lies, major lies and medium sized secrets mixed in for good measure. The Telemachus family is no different.

The story unfolds in the mid-90’s. Life has given them disappointment and heartache since they were kids. They find themselves facing a life they don’t recognize, and have gone down a path to try to fix that. But small choices can have big consequences.

As they each decide how to move forward, they all think they are acting in the best interest of their family. Matty only wants to help his mom make some extra money so she’ll be happy and they can move out of his grandpa’s house. Irene just wants to find some peace of mind and raise a normal son. Frankie wants the world for his family, to regain the notoriety they once had, and live the life he thinks they deserve. Teddy is always looking for the easy mark, someone to hustle. And Buddy, well, Buddy just wants the past, present and future to line up in a normal fashion.

Each of these desires are so intricately connected and reliant on another member of the family, yet they all keep secrets from each other, thinking that this will keep everyone safe until the end.

This book is very funny. Gregory finds the humor in everyday situations and delivers with such wit, you will find something to laugh at many time throughout.

“”Eight-year-olds playing soccer, Teddy decided, was a lot like a pack of border collies chasing a single sheep, except that the dogs would’ve used more teamwork.”

There’s just something so simple yet deeply hilarious about everyday observations like this, and they are sprinkled generously in this story.

I really enjoyed the way Gregory gives us the idea of power. I know I’ve dreamed of being able to move things with my mind, or detect a lie, or even see the future. He gives us these amazing talents, but he also shows us that perhaps they aren’t as alluring as we might initially think. There are still struggles and heartbreak and heartache, even with these amazing abilities. Life, still requires a lot of work.

Even though Buddy can see the future, he can’t see all the details so misunderstandings create false understandings. And, just because you can see the future, doesn’t mean it changes anything.

“Everything he knows about the whirlpool of past and future tells him that the universe does not owe you anything and even if it did, it would never pay up.”

Because of this, Buddy simply stops talking much at all, terrified of what he may inadvertently let slip. So when he begins tearing apart and completing random construction projects around the house without a word of explanation, its difficult for his family to understand. Yet, there are various moments when other family members think that if Buddy would only help them see the future, their decisions would be easier. Buddy seems to be the only one with the knowledge of how heavy and hard the future can be.

Irene can detect when someone is lying. Even a small, harmless lie. So she doesn’t trust anyone. And can’t open herself up to intimate relationships. Hearing the lie, no matter how small, is sometimes more painful than not knowing it’s there at all.

Frankie can move objects. Except, only sometimes, and never when he wants to, and never when it’s important.

And then there’s Matty. Who can leave his body and see the world. Except, there’s a few embarrassing things that need to happen before he can actually do any of that.

I absolutely loved the use of Teddy in the story. Teddy is always more than he seems, or exactly what he seems. A conman, a huckster, a fast talker. He knows how to work people and get what he wants. His sleight of hand is what makes him so good. So, we don’t expect Gregory to use the same tricks in his writing to make us look one way, when really he is leading us another. As the story unfolds, we are more and more confident of where the story is leading, yet when the pages are complete, it is exactly what we expected and at the same time, not at all what we expected. It’s a magic trick in plot. And it’s genius.

I really like the way the story is developed. Using the memories of each character to help us learn the past, as well as each characters current point of view creates a lush, deep, and rich view of the entire family. We get a sense of who they are and more importantly, why they are the way they are. We also get to see pieces of the plot unfold, knowing the missteps being planted along the way, unknowingly by each family member. But, again, the real delight is watching these plans hatch and being just as surprised by the outcome as they are. It truly is masterful story telling.

This is a quirky, fun, wonderful novel about family. I highly recommend this to anyone looking for a funny, entertaining story! I loved it, and will revisit the Telemachus family in the future.

Thank you so much First To Read, Penguin Random House and AA Knopf, for giving me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

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