The Binewskis are a carny family who decide, with the help of amphetamine, arsenic, and radioisotopes, to breed their own freak shows. There is Arturo the Aquaboy, who has flippers in place of limbs, Iphy and Elly, siamese twins, and Oly, an albino hunchback.
Then the family produces Chick, who seems like a normal, healthy baby. Chick is so normal that the family is ready to give him away. That is until they discover his anomaly. It turns out Chick may be the family’s most powerful secret weapon.
As the family travels through the United States they have to deal with tragedy, violence, and jealousy. The jealousy is particularly prevalent in Arturo who will stop at nothing to be the main attraction and star of the carnival.
One of my favorite things about reading is painting a picture in my head of all the characters and places being described in the book. I can look at certain books and remember the exact layout of the main character’s house just the way I pictured it when I was reading. Geek Love painted a very disturbing picture. This is not a portrait of a loving family traveling through the U.S. There are images of a pregnant woman actively taking as many drugs as she can, a violent shooting, and siamese twins having reluctant sexual interactions with a man, among other things.
I really like that Dunn took characters that would normally be portrayed as weak victims and turned it upside down. She’s playing with the image we normally have of “freaks”. The parts of the book about the Binewski family and their travels with the carnival were amazing. It was unique and fascinating. The dynamics between the siblings is great.
Unfortunately, this book had two parts to it. There was the story of the Binewski’s and their carnival, and there was also the story of Oly as a grown woman. Oly reconnects with her daughter, who she originally gave up for adoption. Though Oly never reveals her true identity she befriends her daughter and makes an effort to look out for her. There is an entirely separate story line involving a wealthy woman who wants to help Oly’s daughter but Oly fears their may be ulterior motives. In my opinion, the book could have done without those passages.
“The nature of lies is to please. Truth has no concern for anyone’s comfort.” – Arty
“I was brought up in a country that claims you’re innocent until you’re proven guilty. We protect children because they have not yet proven themselves to be hamstring shitholes. Granted, the odds are lousy that they’ll turn out any other way but it’s been known to happen.” – Arty
Final Verdict: This is a great book despite the fact that it started to fall apart a bit at the end. I gave it a 4-star rating on Goodreads.