Books

All Families Are Psychotic
By Douglas Coupland
Bloomsbury/$24.95

Meet the Drummonds, dysfunctional family of the apocalyptic now. With their diseases, criminal records, abusiveness, pregnancies, firearms and addictions, you might more accurately say the Drummonds are a tad psychotic. But as author Douglas Coupland points out in the title of this his latest novel, All Families are Psychotic.

Coupland, who launched the phrase "Generation X" into the world with his first book in 1992, gives readers a satirical tour of 21st century family life. The bruised-but-battling Drummonds have come to Florida's Space Coast to watch the one overachiever in the family — Sarah, a NASA mission specialist — be shuttle-shot into space.

The plotlines orbit a pair of characters: Janet, the Internet-surfing, medication-popping Drummond matriarch; and Wade, the prodigal son who always screwed up whatever chances he had in life. In Florida, Janet does her best to hold the family together through a disastrous scheme Wade leads them into. Mixed within are a cornucopia of tabloid shockers that Coupland throws at us: "Son Gives Both Mother and Father AIDS," "Prominent Businessman Runs Baby Black Market Out of Basement," "Dozens Killed in Midday Restaurant Rampage."

Of interest to Florida readers will be Coupland's designer's eye for describing the sprawl of the Sunshine State, as seen, for example, as one character drives through Orlando: "The palmetto scrub landscape would, for no apparent reason, burst into a cluster of wealthy superhomes here, then a burst of lower-middle class discount stores there — followed by a business park, followed by a tourist attraction. All of these money-driven bursts."

As sometimes happens at family reunions, skeletons emerge from closets, people say and do stupid things, furniture is broken, but in the end, the bonds of blood are strong and sustaining. All Families are Psychotic has an odd Chuck Palahniuk-meets-Carl Hiaasen feel to it, but there's a genuine sentiment at the bottom of this book that makes it sweet — not sentimental. We're crazy, say the Drummonds, but we're happy. Or at least as unhappy as everybody else.

—Mark Hayes

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