A Twisted Home Life


From Wisconsin State Journal (September 30, 2001)

by William Wineke

All families may not be psychotic, but the Drummond family certainly is.

It includes Sarah, an astronaut; Janet, her mother - who contracted AIDS when her former husband, Ted, barged into her house and shot Sarah's brother, Wade, who was infected with the disease during a sexual encounter with former husband's second wife and through whose body the bullet passed before entering Janet and giving her the disease; well, you get the picture.

Douglas Coupland's latest novel, "All Families are Psychotic" (Bloomsbury: $24.95), introduces the reader to a bizarre and exotic family that, somehow, convinces that same reader that he actually knows each person in the plot.

Coupland is the author who introduced the term "Generation X" to the public discourse. He also wrote the best seller "Miss Wyoming." In addition, the Vancouver, B.C., writer is an accomplished artist.

In the Drummonds, Coupland finds a family that deals with AIDS, born-again Christianity, drugs, divorce and the Internet.

"They deal with all the big problems of society and, somehow, they remain a family and they get through the problems," Coupland explained during a recent visit to Madison. "I think we all know people who have these qualities. Even Sarah, the astronaut - I know people like her who somehow come out of these incredibly difficult families and yet excel beyond all reason."

The story begins with the family in Florida, where it gathers to see Sarah blast into space.

Sarah, incidentally, has only one hand. She is a victim of thalidomide, a drug that deformed many babies several years ago. Her mother, who took the drug then, is taking it again to treat her AIDS.

This is a plot in which everything goes in circles. As reader, you find yourself in the present, then in the past, and back in the present, sometimes wondering how you got to any of the above.

Yet, the story keeps you reading; the oddball characters become real and, by the time you've finished, you find "All Families are Psychotic" to be an interesting reading experience.