Book Review: Geek Love by Katherine Dunn

Geek Love is the story of the Binewskis, a carny family whose mater- and paterfamilias set out–with the help of amphetamine, arsenic, and radioisotopes–to breed their own exhibit of human oddities. There’s Arturo the Aquaboy, who has flippers for limbs and a megalomaniac ambition worthy of Genghis Khan . . . Iphy and Elly, the lissome Siamese twins . . . albino hunchback Oly, and the outwardly normal Chick, whose mysterious gifts make him the family’s most precious–and dangerous–asset. 

As the Binewskis take their act across the backwaters of the U.S., inspiring fanatical devotion and murderous revulsion; as its members conduct their own Machiavellian version of sibling rivalry, Geek Lovethrows its sulfurous light on our notions of the freakish and the normal, the beautiful and the ugly, the holy and the obscene. Family values will never be the same.


REVIEW:

Geek Love is the guts of a dysfunctional family. The Binewskis family not only looks dysfunctional on the outside, but within its ranks the siblings have a very common rivalry. A spiteful competition of sales between Arturo and the twins is constantly aired, and Arturo makes no attempt to conceal his disdain for Chick’s normal appearance and apparent favoritism from their father.
   
The story flashes back and forth between present day and the childhood of Oly. When her estranged daughter moves into her apartment building, she struggles with whether she should tell her about her true origins.

Most of the story is told from Oly’s point of view. She is an albino hunchback, and describes her outwardly appearance as not abnormal enough. The whole family describes how norms (the term they use for normal people) must have it rough since they will never be unique. This is the type of thinking is the basis of the story when Arturo offers norms a unique way for them to see the world.

The heart of the story is centered on love and all its many branches. It dives deep into the things people will do for love, and it displays the fallouts caused by jealously and greed. My only complaint would be the narrative voice came to me as emotionless, which seems to defeat the purpose, but overall the storytelling was unique and grips the reader’s attention. 


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