All Fired Up and Nowhere to Go: Nothing to See Here

Originally published January 11, 2020

Kevin Wilson really knows his way around some strange family dynamics.

As evidenced in his previous work, like “The Family Fang” and “Perfect Little World,” there’s something about the connection between parent and child that motivates author Kevin Wilson to create some of the most compelling family dysfunctional drama in modern fiction. As with Annie and Buster in “Fang” and Izzy Poole in “Perfect Little World,” the characters at the heart of “Nothing to See Here” are looking to either make a human connection, or at least understand why they can’t.

Lillian Breaker may as well be invisible for as much as she stands out when she meets Madison Billings at Iron Mountain Girls’ Preparatory School — a school Lillian is attending on scholarship because she comes from nothing and her single-but-with-a-cast-of-rotating-boyfriends mother would just assume she’s out of the house and Madison is attending because that’s what daughters of wildly successful businessmen do and c’mon now, she’s gonna be the wife of an important politician someday. They form a quick bond that’s broken even faster when a single incident forces the both of them back onto the paths that are seemingly determined for one another. If you are rich, life comes easy. If you’re not, well then you just need to get back to what you were doing before you were afforded that glimpse of what comes with privilege.

Fast forward a decade-plus-a-few-years, and Madison is calling Lillian to her rescue again, this time from her husband’s children from another marriage. Their mother has died and someone needs to help keep them on the down-low while Senator Jasper Roberts is vetted for a Cabinet appointment. Because you can’t have kids that spontaneously combust if you want to be fourth in line to the Presidency.

At first, I found it kind of interesting that Lillian would want to help Madison out, given the way she’d been sacrificed early on. But the more I thought about it, the more it made sense, because despite the airs that so many silent rebels put on, humans demand, no, require connection. Taking care of pyrotechnic kids may be a mountain that’s impossible to scale, but it’s still a better option than pushing 30 while working as a checkout clerk at the Sav-A-Lot and living in your mother’s attic. And, Madison.

Maybe that’s what I enjoy most about Wilson’s writing — that his characters are incredibly human. Even the ones you care the least about. And, he’s funny. I want to see Mary and Carl come alive on screen. Especially Mary.

Bessie and Roland, you got the happiest ending you could realistically get, and it’s a good one.

If you’ve got a whole day to yourself, consider this a day-long read, incredibly engaging and worth leaving the laundry unfolded and kitchen dishes in the sink for a few extra hours. Treat yourself. Wilson’s work is always worth it.

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