All Families Are Psychotic
by Douglas Coupland
Category: Fiction / General
279 pages; ISBN: 0-00-711753-1
Rating: 7/10 (Ratings explained)
Douglas Coupland's seventh novel is something of a tribute to his mother, like the book's heroine a sixty-something called Janet.She is the matriarch in a seriously dysfunctional family with two sons, Wade, an amoral drifter (and distant cousin of Biff in Death of a Salesman) and Bryan a hypochondriac activist and one daughter Sarah, a mild thalidomide victim (she's only missing a hand). Janet, her ex-husband Ted and new wife Nicky have all been infected with AIDS through Wade.
Sarah, a brilliant scientist, is about to go into space on the Shuttle which provides the excuse for a family get-together in Florida.Before the flight takes off however there is enough time for two typically Couplandian sub-plots to run and eventually converge.One involves the male members chasing the letter Prince William put in Diana's coffin while the females are pusuing the book's most entertaining character, Bryan's pregnant girlfriend Shw (that's not a typo!) whose intentions for the baby are somewhat murky.
Throughout the plot's twists and turns Janet emerges as the cool head who takes charge of and saves the situation.Perhaps this is Coupland's way of apologising after two very unsympathetic mother characters in his previous novels particularly Miss Wyoming.Having one central character makes AFAP more coherent than Miss Wyoming but it's pretty similar in tone.It's also very plot-driven with little room for reflection on the main themes raised here, genetics and the overpowerful pharmaceutical industry.Some may find the resolution of the family's medical dilemma distastefully glib.
What Mrs Coupland makes of all this is unknown.I'll settle for : a decent read but not up to his 90s best.