The Family Fang, Kevin Wilson’s first novel after an excellent and unsettling book of short stories titled Tunneling to the Center of the Earth, centers around the namesake family of the title: Caleb, Camille, Annie and Buster Fang. Caleb and Camille start as young performance artists, he a professor, and she, his student. When Camille gets pregnant, they think it’s the end of their career… until they decide to incorporate their kids into the act.
Surprisingly, the kids grow up fairly normal. Not surprisingly, they are traumatized by their childhood—after all; they were referred to as Child A and Child B for the better part of their youth and made to act in sometimes crowd-angering pieces. Child A (real name: Annie) and Child B (Buster) do everything possible to distance themselves from Caleb and Camille, until life circumstances send them both back home.
Annie, an actress on the verge of fame, has a mini meltdown that the media feasts on and Buster, a freelance journalist, has an accident with a potato gun while reporting a story. Shortly after arriving, their parents disappear and, though the police are certain Caleb and Camille were the victims of a serial killer, Buster and Annie are convinced that their parents are pulling off one last great piece of art.
Wilson has a great party trick: the summary of the book makes it sound a little sad and a lot dramatic, but the writing maintains a light hearted, almost jaunty feel, galloping along at a quick pace. The reader becomes immersed with this nutty but totally believable family, rooting for Annie and Buster as they hunt for clues to what really happened to their parents. The ending is a whopper all on its own, but the journey to get there is just as exciting and enjoyable.