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Complicated Family Dynamics

A recommended reading list by the author of The Twistical Nature of Spoons.

Book Cvoer The Twistical Nature of Spoons

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Books that portray complicated family dynamics generate their own gravitational pull for me. Variations on this theme take on all imaginable contours and levels of intensity, from mildly oddball to irrevocably dysfunctional. Within the context of their complex family situations, characters are often trying to escape, struggling to decipher, attempting to heal, or all of the above. At the centre of my most recent novel, The Twistical Nature of Spoons, the familial ties between a mother and a daughter have unravelled due to untruths and secrets surrounding some rather unique spoons.

The following titles all contain family struggles that resonated with me. The revelations that arise in these stories range from the gut-wrenching heartbreak of no return to the loving recognition of unbreakable bonds. 


Book Cover We'll All Be Burnt in Our Beds

We’ll All Be Burnt in Our Beds Some Night, by Joel Thomas Hynes

A blazingly original voice relays the details of a pending assault trial, followed by a hitchhiking cross-country trek with cremated remains. In the same way that fire consumes oxygen, Johnny Keough and his family members depleted the air in my lungs and left me gasping in the best possible way.    


Book Cover Come Thou Tortoise

Come, Thou Tortoise, by Jessica Grant

Audrey (aka Oddly) must leave behind her pensive tortoise, Winnifred, when she receives urgent word that her father was struck by a Christmas tree and lies in a coma in St. John’s, NL.  That’s just the eccentric tip of the Flowers-family iceberg. A puzzling and gratifying mystery exists below the surface.     


Book Cover 4X4

4 X 4, by Wayne Tefs

The Dokic brothers and their Ma are driving north in a blizzard—a desperate attempt to arrive in time to witness the birth of a new addition to the family. Piled into the Jeep with them are their connection points—sibling rivalry, domestic abuse, addiction, and dark secrets. Will they reach their destination?    


Book Cover An Ordinary Violence

An Ordinary Violence, by Adriana Chartrand

For fans of horror fiction . . . and beyond. This novel wound its way around me in ever-tightening, haunting, and perception-altering circles.  At the heart of it is Dawn, whose brother, Cody, was incarcerated for a violent crime that irreversibly affects the trajectory of their sibling bond.  


Book Cover the Woo Woo

The Woo-Woo How I Survived Ice Hockey, Drug Raids, Demons, and my Crazy Chinese Family, by Lindsay Wong

As detailed as this subtitle may be, it still did not prepare me for this startling, darkly comic, and engrossing memoir. I gained new perspective from its "McMansion"-sized portrayal of a household unlike any I’d ever encountered.      


book cover this has nothing to do with you

this has nothing to do with you, by Lauren Carter

“Soon we’d be standing on air.” An apt, metaphorical description of the crumbling structure of a family unit ... with the worst yet to come. In this anguish-filled, but compellingly hopeful novel, Melony Barnett attempts to re-emerge and to reconnect with her brother, despite the trauma of domestic tragedy. 


Book Cover We're All In this Togetehr

We’re All in This Together, by Amy Jones

If the not-so-ordinary Parker family’s relationships weren’t strained enough, wait until their matriarch goes over a waterfall in a barrel and they become national and internet news.  A delightfully messy, hilarious, and genuinely moving read, in which everyone insists on having their say.   


Book Cover Jonny Appleseed

Jonny Appleseed, by Joshua Whitehead

This book shredded me with its weighty injustices, and then mended me again with its poetic bent and its indescribable tenderness. I laughed and wept along with Jonny, with his Two-Spirit/Indigiqueer longings, and with his myth-in-the-making ability to reveal the rejuvenating essence of family.


Book Cover French Exit

French Exit, by Patrick deWitt      

Might I suggest a glass of champagne as you embark on your ocean voyage to Paris with Frances, and her son, Malcolm? You may be set off-kilter, but you won’t be disappointed.  Oh, and should you feel pressured to pick up the tab for the bankrupt duo (and their cat), the gain of significant insights will be worth it.   


Book Cvoer The Twistical Nature of Spoons

Learn more about The Twistical Nature of Spoons:

Blisse has guarded the family secret for her entire childhood. No one can know the origin of her unconventional birthday gifts Her mother, Ina, has insisted that Blisse never tell a soul—believing it's the only way to keep her daughter safe from a dire fate. Together, mother and daughter must sift through their own versions of events to understand how the secret has led to the unravelling of their lives. Chock-full of masks and curses, art and magic, seduction and spoons, their stories are both fraught with misdirection and awash in whimsy. Can their revelations negate a tragic prediction? Or is the dissolution of love and family inevitable?

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