Decades after an unforgivable trespass, two childhood friends are reunited in a most unusual arrangement.
Wilson is a remarkable writer for many different reasons, as demonstrated by his quirky novels, Perfect Little World (2017) and The Family Fang (2011), and tons of short stories. One of his greatest strengths is the ability to craft an everyday family drama and inject it with one odd element that turns the story on its head. He’s done it again here, writing once more about family but with some most unusual children and a particularly charming narrator. Back in the day, Lillian and Madison were besties at an elite boarding school, the former a smart scholarship student and the latter a quirky but spoiled rich girl. But when Madison got into trouble, privilege reared its ugly head, and Lillian was the one kicked out of school. Now grown, she spends her days at her dead-end job and her off hours getting stoned. Out of the blue, Madison reappears, now mother to her darling boy, Timothy, and the wife of a U.S. senator and budding political star. But the family is in a quandary over what to do with the senator’s twin children from a previous marriage, Bessie and Roland. Oh, and by the way, the twins spontaneously combust when they’re angry or upset. No harm comes to them, but clothes, houses, and anything else in their orbit can go up in flames. Lillian is offered a job looking after the twins for the summer until the fam can figure out what to do with the little fireballs. To her own surprise, Lillian turns out to be a terrific guardian, despite her own doubts. “They were me, unloved and fucked over, and I was going to make sure they got what they needed,” she affirms. The book’s denouement is a bit predictable, but Lillian develops into an engaging parental proxy in Wilson’s latest whimsical exploration of family.
A funny and touching fable about love for kids, even the ones on fire.