Book Reviews

All Families are Psychotic by Douglas Coupland

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Paperback: Pages.

Published: 24 September 2002 by Vintage Canada

ISBN: 0679311831

EAN: 9780679311836

In the opening pages, 65-year-old Janet Drummond checks the clock in her cheap motel room near Cape Canaveral, takes her prescription pills and does a rapid tally of the whereabouts of her three children: Wade, the eldest, in and out of jail and still radiating ”the glint”; suicidal Bryan, whose girlfriend, the vowel-free Shw, is pregnant; and Sarah, the family’s shining light, an astronaut preparing to be launched into space as the star of a shuttle mission. They will all arrive in Orlando today – along with Janet’s ex-husband Ted and his new trophy wife – setting the stage for the most disastrous family reunion in the history of fiction. Florida may never recover from their version of fun in the sun.

The last time the family got together, there was gunplay and an ensuing series of HIV infections. Now, what should be a celebration turns instead into a series of mishaps and complications that place the family members in constant peril. When the reformed Wade attempts to help his dad out of a financial jam and pay off his own bills at the fertility clinic, his plan spins quickly out of control. Adultery, hostage-taking, a letter purloined from Princess Diana’s coffin, heart attacks at Disney World, bankruptcy, addiction and black-market negotiations – Coupland piles on one deft, comic plot twist after another, leaving you reaching for your seat belt. When the crash comes, it is surprisingly sweet.

Janet contemplates her family, and where it all went wrong. “People are pretty forgiving when it comes to other people's family. The only family that ever horrifies you is your own.” During the writing, Coupland described the book as being about “the horrible things that families do to each other and how it makes them strong.” He commented: “Families who are really good to each other, I’ve noticed, tend to dissipate, so I wonder how awful a family would have to be to stick together.”

Reviews

3.0 Stars3.0 Stars3.0 Stars  by Anne

Started well but became silly

This started as a novel about a seriously dysfunctional family who meet together as one of them is scheduled to go on a space flight. Each family member has an issue and they are all facing some sort of crisis. It is all a little far-fetched but written well, with plenty of witty prose, and you can identify to some degree with all the observations about family dynamics.

I was enjoying all the challenges that the author throws at the family and then the book became rather silly. What was far-fetched became unbelievable and I lost all engagement with the book. It became cartoonlike and fantasy and I became weary of it. This is a pity for me because I was very much enjoying the book for the first part. I felt that when the book became silly that the author lost any opportunity to say anything meaningful about families and their relationships and the book became pure entertainment - at this point I didn't enjoy it and I thought that it was a pity that the author had made this decision.

 
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