Geek Love by Katherine Dunn. I really enjoyed this book and it had a lot to question as to what really is normal and what is freakish. There's two storylines being told, one that focuses on the Binewski Fabulon during its heyday and another several years in the future and it's all told from the perspective of one of the Binewski children, a hunchbacked dwarf named Oly. The basic premise is that a young couple, Al and Lil, are desperately trying to save Al's family business of a traveling carnival fabulon and decide to breed their own freakshow. Al devises complex medical regimens for Lil to follow in order to try and design children with specific deformities. Their dynamic, while twisted, was rather touching and almost sweet. To an outsider, parents condemning their children to a lifetime of physical deformity is the epitome of child abuse but within the exclusive Binewski clan it shows their extreme love. The children are aware that their father designed them an the greater the deformity the more precious (both personally and financially) the child was. To be a 'norm' was the greatest sin of all.
The characters of the family members were all very engaging and unique and even when they were being horribly despicable they still maintained a soft side. The rise of the Arturans was rather interesting to follow. The conjoined twins maintained separate personalities and how the issues of sexual maturity were dealt with were rather well done- while disturbing. Chick was really adorable but a sad character. And the main character, Oly, was a sympathetic and loveable character though she needed a slap occasionally.
The book was rather disturbing at times but I felt it wasn't over done and fit this freakish family quite well. While I loved most things about the Fabulon era storylines I wasn't so fond of the modern day ones that follow Oly many years later. I didn't think it served that clear of a purpose and I think the book would have been more engaging and rich if it had totally focused on the Fabulon years instead of switching back and forth.
I had a few other issues with the book that lessened the awesomeness of it. The end of the Fabulon times and what is really the climax of the novel was rushed and vague and should have had much more devoted to it, especially when other nonessential plot points got several pages. The was an awkward shift of tense right at the end which was unnecessary and confusing. I also generally just didn't like the ending. I gave this book a 4 out of 5 on goodreads.
I really liked this quote: "It is, I suppose, the common grief of children at having to protect their parents from reality. It is bitter for the young to see what awful innocence adults grow into, that terrible vulnerability that must be sheltered from the rodent mire of childhood."