Geek Love -Katherine Dunn

geeklove This is one of the most bizarre and outlandish books I’ve ever read . . . in a good way.

Things you will encounter in this book:

  • self-mutilation
  • severe, purposeful birth defects
  • borderline-incestuous relationships
  • maggots

Other things you will encounter in this book:

  • unusual concepts of beauty and normality
  • a universal yearning for acceptance
  • loyalty and maternal devotion
  • a riveting family saga

Geek Love follows the life story of Oly, an albino humpback, reflecting on her life growing up as a member of her family’s traveling freakshow, the Binewski Fabulon. Her parents, Al and “Crystal Lil”, purposefully engineered their own family of oddities using experimental drugs and radiation when conceiving their children. There’s Artie the “Aqua Boy,” a tyrant and prophet with his own coterie of self-mutilating followers; Elly and Ipphy, the conjoined twins who share legs but have vastly different personalities; and Chick, the youngest Binewski, who was almost abandoned for being a “norm,” but proves to have invisible powers.

Oly’s story of the carnival is wrought with jealousies, lust for power, manipulation, and yearning for love, like any family drama; however, the weirdness factor casts a shadow on it all, which only makes the story that much more interesting. There are other unusual characters in the freak show, including the Bag Man, who gave me serious heebie-jeebies. There’s a second story as well of Oly developing a relationship with her estranged daughter, complete with more peculiar characters and perspectives about the negativity of beauty.

I enjoyed this story, warts – quite literally – and all. The only drawback from my enjoyment was I felt a bit more editing was in order as the pacing was off. I got bored in the middle and found the story repetitive, but the unusual storyline and gory characters compensated when the story seemed to stall. Many reviewers complained that this book was nauseatingly gruesome (have they never read Cormac McCarthy?). This book is not for the faint of heart, but if you enjoyed “American Horror Story” (especially season 4), you should be just fine.

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