They say from an outside perspective looking in, everybody’s family is a little weird. Well, in author Andrew Kaufman’s latest novel, Born Weird, his fictional family is so weird, it’s the family surname. In Born Weird, Kaufman weaves an entertaining tale of a family seeking release from its own matriarch, Grandmother Anne Weird. Kaufman’s Born Weird is an allegorical novel loaded with humour and strangeness. More so, it’s a well-crafted story that doesn’t disappoint, from its curious start to fulfilling ending.
The story takes off in a hurry, as we’re introduced to Grandmother Weird, who’s soon to die in a Vancouver hospital room. Her pregnant granddaughter, Angie Weird, is summoned to her hospital room for what she figures will be a quick visit to her grandma. However, it’s from here that things take a turn for the weird, as Grandmother Weird shares with Angie the exact time of her death, as well as the blessings she placed on each grandchild at the time of their birth. And while granny originally intended each blessing as a generous gift, unfortunately, for each Weird grandchild, the blessing has turned into a curse, which now wrecks havoc on their adult lives. To lift the curse, Grandmother Weird explains, Angie has two weeks to gather all five of them and bring them to her hospital room before she dies. Failure to do so will mean Angie and her four siblings are forever cursed. In conclusion, it’s the classic family predicament.
Kaufman’s characters are rich in comedy and calamity, but never feel artificial. Furthermore, he keeps the story’s pace frantic and the descriptions brief, as Angie races through airports and highways in an attempt to collect each sibling, before time expires on grandma. And as the story moves forward, each sibling Angie attempts to gather brings a certain level of humour and tragedy to the narrative. Although somewhat reminiscent of Wes Anderson’s film, The Royal Tenenbaums, Kaufman’s own eccentric family is damaged and peculiar but, similar to Anderson’s Tenenbaums, likable in their own weird way.
Overall, the tale is a gratifying one with memorable characters and silly setbacks. However, at times, the dialogue heavy novel does read like a bit like a TV show transcript, but to his credit, Kaufman doesn’t lose direction of the entertaining plot that surrounds his characters. Kaufman ingeniously presents us an opportunity to reflect on the novel’s main theme: the idea of coincidence. Throughout the book, his characters struggle to stay afloat in a sea of misfortune in hopes that there’s still time to alter their future for the better. By doing so, Born Weird forces us to ask: Does everything in life happen for a reason, or is it just random occurrences that shape our own lives? In the end, there’s nothing weird about that.