It's a Whimsical Mashup of Family Drama and Sci-Fi in Chicago with 'Spoonbenders'

It's a Whimsical Mashup of Family Drama and Sci-Fi in Chicago with 'Spoonbenders'

Thursday, 4 March, 2021

The right book can instantly transport you to anywhere — and anytime — in the world. Every Thursday, we recommend one of our favorite books with a strong sense of place so you can see the sights, meet remarkable people, go on exciting adventures, and feel big feelings. Bonus: You don't even have to put on pants.

This post is part of our 'Weekend Getaway' series.

rule

This weekend, spend your time with a family that will charm you with their bickering, loyalty, and abiding love for each other. Set in Chicago, the story takes you from the 1960s to the ’90s, capturing the optimism and affinity for crime that runs rampant in the Windy City.

The Amazing Telemachus Family was on its way to fame and fortune. What else to expect from a family that includes a psychic, a human lie detector, and a kid with telekinetic powers?! But one night, a disastrous performance brings their career to a halt. This is the story of everything that happened next.

When card sharp and altogether charming con man Teddy Telemachus meets Maureen, he’s immediately smitten. Who cares that they ran into each other in the offices of Stargate, a government agency trying to harness psychic powers to win the Cold War? Love is love is love.

Soon their young family is on an upward trajectory of fame. For one glorious year, they tour the United States as The Amazing Telemachus Family. But when tragedy strikes not once but twice, the family splinters — until a series of unusual circumstances bring them back together.

What begins as a whimsical, almost-sci-fi romp gradually becomes the heart-warming (and riotously funny) family saga you didn’t know you needed. These characters love each other in the messy, sarcastic way of real families with long-held grudges, inside jokes, tender moments, and plenty of teasing.

In no particular order and with no spoilers, the story also weaves magic tricks, shootouts, psychic phenomena, touches of romance, and second (third and fourth) chances into a page-turning novel. When the cinematic climax arrives, it catches all the balls that have been in the air in one graceful swoop.

Playful, mischievous, and a little bit madcap, this novel will transport you to the Chicago of the 1960s and the 1990s with an unforgettable family.

You didn’t fool me, Maureen McKinnon, because you weren’t trying to. You’re the real thing. It took me long enough to believe it — it’s against my nature. I’d be damned if some blue-eyed Chicago beauty was going to make a mark out of me. But you, you’ve got the goods. You’re an honest-to-God psychic. And I’m in love with you. — Daryl Gregory

Spoonbenders

by Daryl Gregory

This mischievous family saga (416 pages) was published in June of 2017 by Bond Street Books. The book takes you to 1990s and 1960s Chicago. Melissa read Spoonbenders and loved it; it wouldn't be on our site if she didn't recommend it.

Bookshop.org is an online bookstore with a mission to financially support independent bookstores and give back to the book community.

Spoonbenders: A novel

 

Top image courtesy of Ken Mages/Unsplash.

Want to keep up with our book-related adventures? Sign up for our newsletter!

keep reading

We visit the Windy City for a deep-dive into what makes Chicago different from every other city in America. We discuss books we love that explore Chicago's culture, food, and history of rabble-rousers and heroes.
If you're looking for a zine about awesome pizza, indie magazines, or a Q&A with your favorite graphic novelist, Quimby's Bookstore in Chicago is your kind of place. Fulfilling all your weird book needs since 1991.
Treat yourself to a recipe for homemade Chicago-style hot dogs! It's an all-beef dog 'dragged through the garden' with colorful toppings for a taste explosion, inspired by Erik Larson's brilliant romp through history.
This weekend, we recommend a getaway to Templeton, NY — aka Cooperstown. IRL, there's the Baseball Hall of Fame and James Fenimore Cooper. In the book, there's a lake and old friends and — oh, yeah — a monster.
This weekend, time travel to a 1920s Texas circus: Pontilliar's Spectacular Star Light Miraculum. Step right up to meet Ruby, the tattooed snake charmer who'll steal your heart while she saves the world.
An isolated hotel. A brutal snowstorm. A mysterious death. And a high school music festival?! This novel has everything! It's a thrill ride, and we love when an author bends our favorite literary tropes to her will.

sharing is caring!

Can you help us? If you like this article, share it your friends!

our mission

Strong Sense of Place is a website and podcast dedicated to literary travel and books we love. Reading good books increases empathy. Empathy is good for all of us and the amazing world we inhabit.

our patreon

If you like the work we do, you can help support us through our Patreon! That'll unlock additional content, too — like Mel's recipe for Banh Mi Bowls, and Dave's behind-the-scenes notes for the latest Two Truths and a Lie.

get our newsletter
We'll never share your email with anyone else. Promise.

This is a weekly email. If you'd like a quick alert whenever we update our blog, subscribe here.

no spoilers. ever.

We'll share enough detail to help you decide if a book is for you, but we'll never ruin plot twists or give away the ending.

super-cool reading fun
reading atlas

This 30-page Reading Atlas takes you around the world with dozens of excellent books and gorgeous travel photos. Get your free copy when you subscribe to our newsletter.

get our newsletter
We'll never share your email with anyone else. Promise.
follow us

Content on this site is © 2021 by Smudge Publishing, unless otherwise noted. Peace be with you, person who reads the small type.