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Spoonbenders

July 31, 2017

So many people have sent me books to help me through convalescence from my knee replacement that I am quite agreeably stocked up, even for those days when I read a few pages, irritably toss a book aside, and pick up another. Continuous low-level pain management gives me an extremely short attention span.

My friend Miriam sent me Daryl Gregory’s new novel Spoonbenders, and it was the perfect choice for someone marooned on the bed—weird and compelling. It’s a family saga, of sorts, about the first generation of the Telemachus family whose talents include telepathy, clairvoyance, and telekinesis, and their offspring, currently dodging the CIA and the local mafia in the process of finding out who can do what, who knows what, and what exactly happened on a television appearance that occurred before the events of the novel take place.

The novel opens with fourteen-year-old Matty, who can leave his body and fly around, given initial stimulation from either sexual excitement or marijuana. He is living with his mother Irene, who lost a good-paying job because she can detect lies and wasn’t canny enough to hide it from her lying boss. Irene disapproves of anything to do with the Telemachus “powers,” so Matty turns to his Uncle Frankie, who can sometimes direct small items like pinballs in machines or the ball on a roulette wheel. Frankie, like his father before him, is in money trouble with the local mob. Another uncle, Buddy, lives with Matty and Irene, and everyone thinks he is crazy because they don’t understand that he can see events in the future mixed up with events from the past and present. Their father, Teddy, is accomplished at sleight-of-hand tricks, although hampered by an injury inflicted years ago by the local mob boss. Their mother, Maureen, who could leave her body and fly around to see anything, anywhere in the world, died when the children were young.

The suburban family setting seems, at first, like the kind of thing that would make Matty’s 16-year-old cousin Mary Alice, who prefers to be called “Malice,” cringe with embarrassment. The odd bits accumulate, however, and soon enough Irene is in an online relationship with a man who tells the truth every time he says he loves her, Buddy is preparing for “the zap,” although he doesn’t know exactly what it is, and everyone else in the family is rallying to take care of each other and the rest of the world by using powers that they have to keep under wraps.

The family is like a group of superheroes who can’t let anybody catch on, as Matty discovers at the end:
“Everything he knew about his family was not wrong, exactly, but turned sixty degrees. It was like the big red Picasso statue downtown—it became something different when you found a new angle.”

Everyone in this novel has an angle, and part of the pleasure of reading is the process of figuring out where they’re coming from and what that might mean about where their efforts are aimed. For a novel featuring psychics and high-jinks, however, this one is oddly down-to-earth. It’s the everyday details that get most of the attention, even with Buddy, whose preparations for the day he can’t see include installing bunk beds in his basement for the younger generation and bringing them a puppy to play with so they’ll be out of the way when the zap—whatever that turns out to be—happens.

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. Carol S Schumacher permalink
    July 31, 2017 11:13 am

    Wow! This looks really fun! Might be just what I need right now. Thanks, Jeanne!

  2. Elizabeth Johnson permalink
    July 31, 2017 11:20 am

    I scoured my bookshelves, looking for a book that I thought (a) you might like and (b) hadn’t yet read. I failed 😦

    • July 31, 2017 11:27 am

      Aw. I may be less picky about what I read than you think, when not distracted by pain, but it’s not necessary for everyone I know to send me a book! You already passed on your Philip K. Dick collection when you came through here a few years ago, remember.

  3. August 1, 2017 10:31 am

    I just got my copy from the library today! Can’t wait to read it.

    • August 1, 2017 10:35 am

      As Jenny notes (at Reading the End) it does have a bit of a slow start, so stick with it!

  4. August 5, 2017 4:51 pm

    So glad you posted this. 1. it sounds like a fun read, 2. I need a book for a challenge I am in with a piece of cutlery in the title and all I have come with are books like ‘A Fork In the Road’ lol So thanks! And I hope you are healing well.

    • August 5, 2017 8:57 pm

      I am healing well, but it’s a very slow process, and it gets hard to be patient/a patient.

      • August 6, 2017 2:21 pm

        It is so challenging to be laid up with this kind of surgery for so many reasons, but mostly because it’s not like you are sick and feel bad. After the initial surgery once the pain wears off you have the same energy level as you had before, but you have to be more still. And it IS a slow process. Ack….!

        • August 6, 2017 2:26 pm

          On the other hand, it takes longer than four weeks (where I am now) for the pain to wear off. Especially since I still have to work hard at bending, to stretch the tendons and ligaments and break up scar tissue.

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