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.
Considered not very special, despite her non-norm status, by the rest of her family, Oly spends most of her time running around after her elder brother. She is kind to Chick and even though she is more than capable of bitter and jealous moments, is generally a good person.
Despite her so-called ordinariness to the rest of the family, Miranda, Oly’s colourful neighbour (and daughter) is fascinated with Oly, forever trying to lure her into her apartment, under the guise of sharing a pot of tea.
An artist, really all Miranda wants to do is draw Oly in all her glory. And as a friendship between the two women begins to bloom, we learn more about Miranda, the perfectly normal and beautiful girl oblivious of cray origin story.
We also learn how she came to be conceived and with whom.
This book is very descriptive. There are parts where I gasped out loud and had to cover my mouth. It really is unafraid. Some of the characters, such as Arturo, are so arrogantly uncompromising that you can’t help but worship them.
Which is fitting as the Aqua Boy becomes something of a messiah to the lost and needy over the years. What begins as a basic carnival sideshow, soon evolves into something spectacular following a chance meeting with a desperate woman looking for answers. From here spawns the cult of Arturism, the sinister movement facilitated by Arturo and his mysterious right hand woman, Doctor P.
Oh you’ll be agog, I’m telling you and also a little bit sick in your mouths. Don’t be under the impression that this is a happy-go-lucky book. It’s darkly funny and mischievous but it’s also twisted as all fudge.
As Arturism grows, so too does the divide between Arturo and the rest of his family. Al and Crystal Lil all but hang up their working boots and check out of the running of things, leaving all the brain work to Arturo the A Hole.
The Twins too drift away from their brother, with harsh consequences. It’s all down to Chick and Oly to keep it together as best they can.
What will become of the Binewskis and how will they weather the coming storm? And how did it come to be that Oly ends up in that room? Who also, is Mary Lick and what does she want with Miranda? Will Miranda find out where she’s from; and what will happen to Oly?
Well, why don’t you get yourself a copy of Geek Love right now and find out for yourself? It’s the only way.
If you’re a fan of the dark and dirty, of the wonderfully written and the twisted and if you like to root for the Underdog then this is the next book for you. I’m not kidding. It’s the best book I have read in a while, and I’ve read some good books.
- Geek Love
- Publisher: Abacus; New Ed edition (1 Nov. 1990)
- ISBN-10: 0349100861
- ISBN-13: 978-0349100869
- Given paperback as a birthday gift (thank you Maddy – it’s yours next, sugar <3)
All cover images via Google.