In a nimble and substantial novel, Gregory (Harrison Squared, 2015, etc.) delves into the lives of the members of the eccentric and psychically gifted Telemachus family.
On a summer day in 1963, Teddy Telemachus, a flamboyant and charming con man, card shark, and devotee of sleight of hand, cheats his way into a government study about psychic abilities. He meets Maureen McKinnon, a genuine psychic of enormous and mysterious power, and immediately falls in love with her. They get married, have three children with particular psychic gifts, and become famous as the Amazing Telemachus Family until a combination of televised embarrassment and personal loss begins to unravel their lives. Thirty years later, the Telemachus family’s lives are in tatters and sliding ever further into the dreariness of debt, unhappiness, and possible mental instability when the 14-year-old Matty Telemachus plunges them back into a world of cleverly plotted and swiftly paced adventure. Gregory’s novel deploys a cast of odd, damaged, enormously likable characters in a complex story that gracefully balances the outrageous melodrama of Chicago mobsters and shadowy government agencies with the ordinary mysteries of family dynamics. Each of the characters, even when absurdly cartoonish, has a precise energy and depth that makes him or her irresistible. The chapters shift between their points of view, revealing different threads of the story with masterful control and giving the novel an illusion of gleeful messiness and the argumentative, frequently poignant feeling of a family gathering. While the novel revels in elements that entertain—criminal capers, magic, nostalgia for the internet chat rooms and computer paraphernalia of the 1990s—it never shies away from the real emotion of digging up the lies and illusions that sink into every family history. Readers will emerge from the fray sure they know each Telemachus down to the smudges on their hearts.
A skillfully written family drama that employs quirk and magic with grace.