Stop what you are doing and read this book.

Geek Love - Katherine Dunn

ARTURISM: A quasi-religious cult making no representations of a god or gods, and having nothing to say about life after death. The cult represents itself as offering earthly sanctuary from the aggravations of life. Small chalked graffiti, said to be the work of the Admitted, are found in many locations after the Binewski carnival has passed through. The phrase "Peace, Isolation, Purity" (P.I.P) seems to be the slogan. Many commercial posters distributed in advance of the show read, "Arturo knows, All Pain, All Shame, and the Remedy!"

 

I went into this book without reading any major information, other than the back cover.  I was expecting some craziness given the idea of a couple creating their own Freak Show for the carnival, but I never fully expected what I actually got.  It was amazing.  Seriously, freaking amazing.  

 

Geek Love follows the life of the Binewski family; Al, Lily, Arturo the Aquaboy, Elly & Iphy the Siamese twins, Oly the albino hunchback and Chick the supposed "norm" who blows everyone else out of the water, so to speak. The Binewski are originally a family built on love, but in a kind of a twisted way.  Al and Lily create their family experimenting with mixes of amphetamines, arsenic and radioisotopes until they are able to create their dreamlets.  As the family grows older, dynamics begin to change within the family and the carnival turns into some thing all together different.  

 

I'm kind of at a loss with what to exactly say in the review, because I don't want to include anything that I marked in the book.  Those things were so impactful and shocked me so much that I don't want to give any hints as to what happened to the family.  You know from the beginning of the book that they had a tragic ending, but it was such a slow burn, with so many things that eventually led to their fall, how can I single out anything.  

 

The aspect of this book that I find so fascinating is the way I questioned the motives behind the characters.  Al and Lil created their own little "monsters", but exactly how far did they go in their creations.  Would the kids have been the same mentally and emotionally had they not been created with their deformities? Did their tampering with nature create more than just physical monsters?  If they wouldn't have done what they did, would the ensuing terror have actually happened?  It opens up so much of a nature vs nurture debate, but in kind of an opposite direction.  They were created as an abomination of nature, but they were created with love and nurtured completely because of that supposed abomination.  Did they create the madness themselves or would have it occurred naturally? Can you pity who they became in the face of everything?  

 

I honestly cannot talk up this book enough.  It isn't an easy read, as the subject matter can be tough to work through, but it is a fascinating and complex read that will keep you utterly hooked.