Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory

Tricks of the mind: Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory


Spoonbenders is a quirky and amusing novel about a dysfunctional family of psychics and con artists. The Telemachus family—Teddy and Maureen and their three children—were a national sensation until the day they went on television and were less than magical. Twenty years after their fall from grace, grandson Matty discovers that he has some psychic powers like his family, and finds himself caught up in the middle on the ongoing family drama as they fight for money, power, and love.

The novel is told from the perspective of the main members of the family, jumping back and forth to show their different abilities and priorities. This gives it the classic feel of an intergenerational novel, with family secrets and troubles being hidden and revealed. The hijinks and troubles with the government, with the local mob, and with each other are amusing, but also carry the level of threat of a gangster story or similar to keep narrative tension. The writing is straightforward and Gregory carefully withholds small details and reveals them with dramatic or casual effect. Unsurprisingly, the characters are larger than life, especially charismatic trickster Teddy and outsider son Buddy, and their complex family relationships give the novel a fun humanity akin to any family drama.

Spoonbenders feels like a Wes Anderson film written down. It is imaginative and enjoyable, a great light read with some decent stakes and a combination of real powers and tricks.