“It just struck me that it’s the saddest of the psychic powers. Does anyone really need bent cutlery? There’s something about the small scale of it. They’re not changing the world. They’re just bending spoons.”-Daryl Gregory, from an interview about Spoonbenders
‘A generations-spanning family of psychics – both blessed and burdened by their abilities – must use their powers to save themselves from the CIA, the local mafia, and a skeptic hell-bent on discrediting them in this hilarious, tender, magical novel about the invisible forces that bind us.’
Spoonbenders is such an enjoyable story. It was just what I needed to kill my recent reading slump. It impressed me so much that I picked up two more books by the author Daryl Gregory: his 2011 collection of short stories “Unpossible and Other Stories,” and his latest novella “The Album of Doctor Moreau.” I’m taking my time reading the collection to savor the stories. I finished reading the “Moreau” novella and will be reviewing it soon. A completely different kind of story, it was also so much fun to read.
(Please note: possible spoilers ahead as I give limited descriptions of the main characters. Skip to the final paragraph to avoid them.)
The narrative switches back and forth in time, telling the story of the “incredible” Telemachus family. In the 1960s, Teddy Telemachus meets Maureen at a secret ESP experiment. He is a gifted con-man, while Maureen is in fact a powerful psychic. He goes on to marry her and they have three children: Irene (a human lie detector), Frankie (a telekinetic), and Buddy (able to see into the future). In the 1990s, there is also Matty, Irene’s 14-year-old son who may be developing powers of his own.
“You know why I’m raising you kids to be Cubs fans?” Buddy shakes his head. “Any mook can be a fan of a winning team,” Dad says. “It takes character to root for the doomed. You show up, you watch your boys take their swings, and you watch ’em go down in flames—every damn day. […] It teaches you how the world works, kid. Sure, start every spring with your hopes and dreams, but in the universe in which we live, you will be mathematically eliminated by Labor Day. Count on it.”-Daryl Gregory, Spoonbenders
Gregory spins a carefully-plotted tale which spends time with each character. A fascinating picture of the Telemachus family is formed as we learn more about them chapter by chapter. In the 1970s, they tour as a group showing off their “powers” and appearing on national television. But with fame and fortune seemingly within their grasp, events conspire to change everything.
As adults in the 1990s, Irene, Frankie, and Buddy are struggling to maintain control of their extraordinary lives. At the same time, teenage Matty is digging up as much as he can about the family’s mysterious past. Nobody will talk about what happened and he is determined to discover why. But just how deep will he be allowed to dig and what might he find there? Throw in some encounters with the local mob and a growing interest from the C.I.A. and you end up with the unadulterated romp that is Spoonbenders.
As I mentioned earlier, I had so much fun reading this book. It is very funny as well as entertaining. Aside from the fascinating subject matter, Spoonbenders is a story about family love. The more I learned about the Telemachus family, the more I liked them. Gregory’s skill in maintaining control of the different plot threads should be applauded. He kept me engaged in the story until the final page, and I would be happy to read it again.
Thanks for reading!
-Wakizashi, (searching for a glass of iced tea on this hot and humid June evening.)