Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory

Originally published October 2017

Hey, HBO: I found your next miniseries.

If only. I need to see Daryl Gregory’s “Spoonbenders” come to life. A movie, a miniseries, I don’t care. I need the Telemachus family back in my world for a while. I feel like I am going through withdrawals.

It’s that good.

Any follower of mine knows I love books about family. “Spoonbenders” ups the ante by also weaving in the mystical — a family that, well for most of them, has psychic powers. The rest are able to get by on their talent for trickery. Which comes in handy when you are messing with the Mob.

There’s Teddy, the Telemachus patriarch, who has a way with magic. And the ladies. A classic con man falls in love and uses that talent to sidle up to …

Maureen, the pretty young co-ed with true psychic capability — a talent that doesn’t go unnoticed either on campus or by the government. Thus The Amazing Telemachus Family is born with Teddy and Mo’s three kids …

Irene, now 31 and just looking to get on her feet again when her talent for being able to spot lies makes it difficult to keep a job or a relationship on stable ground. Irene moves back to the Chicago area with her son …

Matty, now 14 and not completely understanding that no, you don’t really have out-of-body experiences when you first learn how to masturbate. Nope — not how puberty usually works. Too embarrassed to tell his mom, he shares his experience with his uncle …

Frankie, Irene’s younger brother and ne’er do well, who was graced with his father’s con man talents instead of his mother’s unusual gifts. Frankie, trying his best to take care of his wife and kids gets in over his head with …

the suburban Chicago version of the mob, and with Nick, Nick Jr. and Mitzi on your tail, Frankie learns it’s good to have someone looking out for you like …

Buddy, Oh my goodness, Buddy. The youngest of the Telemachus kids, Buddy has the gift of foresight and has lived with the tragedy of his mother’s loss for far longer than the rest of the clan. And has been able to see the ending to this tale since the beginning. Of course, I’ve got my own perspective thanks to having kids that aren’t your run-of-the-mill variety. But Buddy really touched a nerve. Never ever underestimate the quiet ones. Buddy’s love for his family knows no bounds and the lengths he goes to in protecting them is one of the most touching storylines I’ve read in years.

The humor and depth with which Gregory is able to weave a realistic family from the fantastic that is a mob and psychic mayhem escapade is hard to measure. In the hands of a lesser writer, this story would seem preposterous. Yet somehow, it works. It works because if secondary characters like Irene’s online connection, Joshua, and Nick Jr’s estranged wife Graciella, can look past the crazy, so can the reader. And somehow, the best line of the book isn’t even part of the story — it’s in the acknowledgements:

“And so, though it seems ridiculous to have to say this in the twenty-first century: none of it is real, folks. There are no mind readers, no remote viewers, no water dousers, no one who can warp kitchen utensils with the power of their mind — except in fiction. But isn’t that enough?”

Yes, it is. Now get them on my television set post-haste! This is one book I can safely say you will not regret picking up. Highly engaging, easy to get sucked in, funny and touching all at once.

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