Spoonbenders, by Daryl Gregory

32842453The Amazing Telemachus Family never really recovered from a disastrous episode of The Mike Douglas Show. Instead of showing off their psychic abilities, the entire family was thoroughly debunked. Twenty some odd years later, they’re living in a suburb of Chicago and just barely scraping by. What they don’t know at the beginning of Daryl Gregory’s highly entertaining Spoonbenders is that they’re about to give their greatest performance ever.

That said, Spoonbenders has an inauspicious beginning. Grandson Matty has just discovered an ability to astral project after doing something very embarrassing. He has no idea what happens until his grandfather lets him in on the family’s past as the Amazing Telemachus Family. Matty’s mother, Irene, and Uncle Frankie were more than happy to never talk about it again. Plus, his odd uncle Buddy doesn’t talk much period. But after he see the video of the family on the Douglas Show, he wants to learn how to use his talent.

Meanwhile, Frankie is desperately trying to get out of his massive loan shark debt and Irene is struggling with a new relationship. Irene can always tell when someone lies, so it’s hard to talk to anyone. At the same time, Grandfather Teddy found out that his new attraction is up to her eyeballs in mob business and Buddy seems to be trying to fortify the house. With every passing chapter, things get increasingly complex and the stakes get higher.

Unlike most authors trying to set up a spectacular ending (*cough*Stephen and Owen King*cough*), the plots and subplots don’t feel like someone moving chess pieces around. Instead, Spoonbenders reads like characters rocketing around on their own quests of varying levels of quixotic-ness. Because the characters are all given distinct, logical subplots, we get to know and care about all of them. The characters all well-drawn and sympathetic. It’s a marvel to watch them all collide at the end of the book in one of the best endings I’ve read in a long time. It’s a perfect balance of chaos and foresight, like watching someone blow up a hardware shop only to have the debris turn into a Rube Goldberg machine.

I really enjoyed this book.

Notes for Bibliotherapeutic Use: Give to people who like off-kilter fiction who are experiencing family drama.


  1. Have you ever read “The Haunted Bookshop” by Christopher Morley? Your “bibliotherapeutic” comment reminds me of it…the bookshop’s owner strongly believes in matching a person with exactly the book that they need. The actual story of the book is kind of a hokey mystery, but it’s basically an excuse for the author to let loose his bibliophilia.


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