Performance artist Caleb Fang knew two things: no sacrifice for art was too big if "the outcome was beautiful enough, strange enough, memorable enough" and "kids kill art." When Camille became pregnant, he found a way around the second fact. Annie and, later, Buster grew up as actors, taking on whatever persona was needed for their parents' current act and never breaking character, no matter what chaos ensued.
Beneath the surface of the fun and fast-paced The Family Fang, Kevin Wilson (author of the story collection Tunneling to the Center of the Earth) explores self-identity and families in the context of life lived as art. After years of sacrificing everything, even their names, to their parents' art, Annie and Buster struggle with recognizing reality. No family outing was ever what it seemed, and the siblings learned to react to every mishap as if it were orchestrated. Once, when Caleb fell, Buster immediately played a familiar role in a performance piece, showing no concern for his bleeding father until he was told it was an accident.
As young adults, Annie and Buster are determined to end the cycle of manipulation but can't quite grasp the idea that life isn't scripted. Only when the two are forced to question the truth of an extreme performance can they muster the strength to break from Caleb and Camille. The longer Annie and Buster are on their own, the more we wonder who's in charge: Did the artists force the split for their own purposes? Or did the children simply reject their parents' realities and thus their place within the family? --Candace B. Levy, freelance editor blogging at Beth Fish Reads