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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
Sometimes the only difference between drugstore novels and Shakespeare is the level of writing. For all their wit and intelligence, Shakespeare's plays have more in common with the plotlines for Days of Our Lives than you would outwardly think. Douglas Coupland, author of Girlfriend in a Coma and Generation X, knows this. His seventh novel, All Families are Psychotic, is a nightmarish, sardonic soap opera about one battered family that falls somewhere between Valley of the Dolls and All's Well That Ends Well.
The fractured Drummonds have just descended upon Orlando, Florida -- like a swarm of flies on fresh roadkill -- for one hell of a family reunion. The baby of the family, Sarah, a one-handed astronaut, is preparing to be launched into space. What should be a cause for celebration, however, is the impetus for scratching familial scabs. Janet, the 65-year old matriarch with a penchant for sex chat rooms and cheap hotels, is dying. The previous year, the philandering eldest son, Wade, met a beautiful redhead in an airport and had a brief midday fling. Unbeknownst to him, the woman was his father, Ted's, new trophy wife, Nickie. When daddy dearest found out, he tracked his son down at Janet's home and shot him, but the bullet cut clean through Wade and entered Janet's lung. Wade, we find out later, has AIDS and has infected not only his mother, via his blood on the bullet, but also Nickie. And then there's Brian, the youngest brother, an unlucky, brooding man who has unsuccessfully attempted suicide three times, and his radical burn-down-big-business pregnant girlfriend, Shw (that's right, Shw -- no vowels). What ensues when all these volatile folks mix it up in the state of Florida is an outlandish and mordantly funny story that involves a black-market baby, a kidnapping, a letter from Prince Charles, and -- believe it or not -- second chances.
Coupland is by far one of our most astute writers -- someone who has his finger on the deathly faint pulse of contemporary society. Though All Families Are Psychotic sounds like a deep foray into the absurd, it is really a novel about healing, the fragility of our relationships with those we love and hate the most, and the all-too-familiar desire for acceptance and redemption. Yes, the world can be a nasty place, but sometimes it's our own internal worlds that do the most damage -- and sometimes you need those psychos in your family to get you through it. (Stephen Bloom)