Before I even finished this book, I was thinking about how I would review it. Not all books deserve a review in my eyes (Bellman & Black, I’m looking at you) but this one is so multi-layered, so fantastic and dark that it really does deserve to be talked about. I’m just mad it took me so long to get my hands on a copy.
But where to start?
I feel I should preface this post with the statement that I love anything freak show themed. I know it’s human nature to be fascinated by the unusual and the macabre, but I really am attracted to the darkness. What can I say?
While reading Geek Love I was put in mind of American Horror Story Freak Show (which I have still yet to finish). I swear it must have been inspired in part by Katherine Dunn‘s novel. The Wikipedia page however, doesn’t mention the book at all so I guess I’m way off.
But anyway, I love this book. I knew I would even before I’d even cracked the spine. It’s got all the hallmarks of a book that will stick with me for life and has automatically clawed its way into my favourites list. It is that good.
To the book. The story of the travelling Binewski family is told to us by Olympia (or Oly) Binewski, the hunchbacked albino dwarf and daughter of Al and Crystal Lil, carnival owners.
Split between two-time periods, the book flits from current day right back to Oly’s childhood and covers most of the events that lead up to her living in a run down tenement in a room down the hall from her grown up daughter, Miranda, who doesn’t know that Oly is her mother.
Oly has several siblings: Arturo (or Aqua Boy), her older brother (who has flippers for hands and feet), the Siamese Twins, Electra (Elly) and Iphigenia (Iphy); and younger brother Fortunato (or The Chick), a ‘normal looking’ angel of a child, who just happens to have telekinetic powers.
You could say that the children were born special, and while that’s true, we soon learn that their unique idiosyncrasies were predestined. Geek Love isn’t Enid Blyton and is shocking in parts. Early on we learn the origins of the Binewski kids; and that Crystal Lil and Al deliberately engineered a family of freaks to fill up the show.
This band of geeks though, although loved, unfortunately did not come out in perfect succession. We meet the rest of the ‘children’, as introduced by Oly, the offspring that didn’t make it; fated to float for all eternity (or at least for the rest of the family’s days) in cloudy formaldehyde in their own creepy trailer.