Category: Fiction – Paperback: 266 pages – Publisher: Random House – Imprint: The Friday Project – Source: We Love This Book
First Published: January 2013
I don’t request many review copies at all but when We Love This Book offered a review copy of Born Weird by Andrew Kaufman I promptly snapped it up. It was the quirky blurb that caught my eye:
The Weirds have always been a little peculiar, but not one of them suspected that they’d been cursed by their grandmother.
At the moment of their birth Annie Weird gave each of her five grandchildren a special power that she thought was a blessing. Richard, the oldest, always keeps safe; Abba always has hope; Lucy is never lost and Kent can beat anyone in a fight. As for Angie, she always forgives, instantly. But over the years these blessings have proved to be curses and ruined their lives.
Now Annie is dying and she has one last task for Angie, her favourite grandchild. Angie has to gather her far-flung brothers and sisters and assemble them in her Grandmother’s hospital room so that at the moment of her death, she can lift these blessings turned curses.
Part magic realism, part family drama and part road-trip story, I really liked the sly sense of humour that Kaufman works throughout his very tall tale.
The book begins with the rather scary grandmother Annie summoning the youngest Weird child, Angie, to her hospital bed and terrifying her into agreeing to gather her brothers and sisters together. The Weirds live all over the US (and one lives in a strange, possibly Scandinavian state you can’t find on a map) so heavily pregnant Angie starts decides to start with the easiest sibling to convince – Lucy. Poor Lucy has the blessing of never being lost, the flip side is she can never lose herself in the moment, in joy or in grief. It’s a characteristic that has made her life rather sterile and entirely romance-free.
After convinced Lucy to come on the quest, the book follows Angie and her increasing band of siblings as they gather together and re-connect after years of not talking to each other. Along the way they deal with the unsolved disappearance of their father years ago and get terrible, terrible haircuts from their mother who isn’t a hairdresser but has lost her memory, lives in a care home and thinks she is.
Kaufman builds up the family slowly, adding layers to their story and deepening the relationships between the siblings carefully to give a sense of there being a grain of truth in amongst all the absurdity. For example, I loved the idea of the five Weird kids building a huge cardboard town on rainy days and voting on buildings to add or demolish over the years. I also liked the way he twisted the blessings into curses – after reading about the flip side of Lucy’s superpower I couldn’t help trying to figure out how the other kids’ blessings could have gone wrong (but I still found the way Kaufman explained them touching and oddly believable).
Born Weird is enchanting, wryly funny and rather madcap, it had me hooked from the first page.
Rating: 7/10 (Book Review Scale)