Spoonbenders (2016) by Daryl Gregory

“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

Publisher’s Synopsis

‘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.’


My Thoughts

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.

Recommended!

Thanks for reading!

-Wakizashi, (searching for a glass of iced tea on this hot and humid June evening.)

17 thoughts on “Spoonbenders (2016) by Daryl Gregory

    • 😅 Every word is true, maybe, well probably not. Thanks Jeroen. I need to re-read “More Than Human.” This book is much more of a romp, although the characters feel very real.

      Like

  1. Glad you got into something that (hopefully) will revive your reading interest 😀

    In a very weird way, your descriptions remind me of the villain family in the Despicable Me movie franchise, the Minion Movie.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks 😃 Hopefully it will. It’s just taking me a lot longer to finish an average sized novel these days. I’m watching too much YouTube. 😅

      I don’t remember Despicable Me. I’ll have to watch it again.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I like the whole Despicable Me franchise, even the horrible final movie 😀
        It’s just so stupid that it works for me, hahahaha.

        Ahhh, watching stuff. Yep, that’ll do your reading in every time…

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Sounds like exactly the kind of creative genre satire I’ve been looking for! Never heard of the book or the author, so I’m doubly grateful for the recommendation!

    And it’s hot and humid here in New York, too, Wakizashi, so I empathize!

    Liked by 1 person

    • It was a fun read, Sean, with a cool plot and memorable, relatable characters. There was talk of a TV adaptation by Showtime, I think, but I don’t know what happened.

      I didn’t know you had it hot and sticky in New York, too. It’s the beginning of the rice growing season here, so we have to get used to the wet heat. You should see the rice fields full of water reflecting the blue sky. It’s beautiful and still moves me even after all this time.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Until very recently, I lived in Southern California, where the weather is the same all the time, no matter the season: What L.A. looks and feels like on the Fourth of July is pretty much what it looks and feels like on Christmas Day. Many love and appreciate the stability and predictability of SoCal’s climate — a sentiment I understand — but a four-season climate is more in sync with my own internal clock. All the seasons have their pleasures, and each season endows the one that follows it with meaning: We cherish the cooldown of autumn after the heat and humidity of summer; ditto the thaw of spring after the bitter cold of winter. Despite (or perhaps on account of) their vagaries, seasonal variations make us more aware of — keep us more in tune with — nature itself.

        Liked by 1 person

        • That’s good to know. I like what you write about the “meaning” of seasons. There are four seasons in Japan, although some might add the Rainy Season–June to Mid July. Each season is celebrated and kind of reflected in the mass media, if you know what I mean. I mentioned before about the “cherry blossom front” being reported on the national news. The same thing happens for the start of the rainy season, also the “first snow” of winter. Nature plays an important role in Japanese culture, which I really appreciate. And it’s important to be “in tune with nature”, as you wrote. I think it’s something we respect more as we get older. I love the changing seasons and I really look forward to spring after the cold winter. Same for autumn after the hot and sticky summr. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Awesome, glad to hear this helped with the slump. Often that’s all it takes, trying something a bit different, and this certainly sounds like something a bit different. You paint an intriguing picture of it, and I love that opening quote about bending spoons. I may have to look this one up. I usually drink my coffe and tea hot but with the rising temperatures and humidity I’m thinking about keeping some in the fridge for just such times. Enjoy!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Todd! I remember when there was a period of media interest in spoon bending, back when I was a kid. Uri Geller (spelling unsure) was all over UK TV and newspapers for a while. The book was just what I needed to get me back into reading regularly again.

      I’m the same with you on hot tea and coffee. Us “mad dogs and Englishmen” usually take our tea HOT, even in hot countries. But my years over here in Japan have changed my tastes, occasionally. I still drink tea and coffee hot most of the time. In Japan, iced coffee and iced “mugi-cha” (barley tea) are really popular in the summer.

      Liked by 1 person

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