Reviews

All Families are Psychotic

Blaine Kyllo

I was looking forward to getting lost in Douglas Coupland’s new novel All Families are Psychotic (Random House), but I wasn’t lost for long. I zoomed through it in a couple of easy evenings, not because I spent lots of time with it, but because there wasn’t much to get through, even though it’s nearly 3 pages long. The premise is intriguing: family of misfits gather for the first time in years to watch prodigal daughter go into space. And the plot is more convoluted and complicated than any Coupland has previously attempted. It sneaks forward, hinting and twisting, with NASA, the space shuttle, Princess Di, AIDS and the state of today’s nuclear family all worked into one storyline. But that’s all the book has: a good premise and a big chunk of plot filled with clever observations about the world. One of the characters says, “We’re people, not cartoons.” He’s wrong. Coupland is a sculptor as well as a writer, and for the first time I was aware of it while reading his narrative. All Families are Psychotic is a piece of sculpture: intricate, finely balanced, and threatening to tip should anyone get too close.

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