BookDragon Books for the Diverse Reader

Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson [in Shelf Awareness]

Families of the particularly dysfunctional variety seem to be Kevin Wilson’s forte, whether artistically constructed as in The Family Fang or experimentally psychological as in Perfect Little World. Despite a sense of head-shaking impossibility, Wilson somehow manages to make his make-believe believable – in between the inappropriate laughing and bittersweet empathizing.

Privilege, power, inequity whorl through Wilson’s Nothing to See Here. Back in their “fancy girls’ school hidden on a mountain in the middle of nowhere,” Lillian and Madison begin their relationship as assigned roommates. Lillian is a valley townie, the daughter of a single mother and missing father who’s “either dead or just checked out.” She’s poor but smart, and gains entrance on scholarship: “I showed a f**king lot of promise,” she insists. Regretfully, that promise gets waylaid by blonde, effortlessly chic, Atlanta “big money” heiress Madison. Alas, the girls’ friendship is merely temporary, canceled by a lucrative deal Madison’s father strikes with Lillian’s mother that insulates Madison and propels Lillian back to her “awful public high school.”

Life goes on. Remarkably, the girls stay in touch, with Madison sending “updates on her life that were as foreign to [Lillian] as reports from the moon, her existence the kind you only read about in magazines.” And then, in the spring of 1995, Madison summons Lillian (via a letter with a tucked-in $50 bill to cover bus fare) to Franklin, Tenn., with “an interesting job opportunity.” In the decade-plus since they last met, Madison has become a senator’s wife, stepmother to his two children by an earlier marriage, mother to “a little boy whom she dressed in nautical suits and who looked like an expensive teddy bear.” Happy to leave behind her two cashier jobs and her mother’s attic, Lillian disembarks at the Nashville station and is met by Carl, the family’s “jack-of-all-trades.” Carl is about to become Lillian’s go-to co-conspirator and crucial companion.

Settling into Madison’s seemingly idyllic, sprawling compound, Lillian is placed in charge of the senator’s 10-year-old twins, Roland and Bessie. “There’s something I have to tell you about them,” Madison warns. Their “affliction,” as she describes it, is that they burst into flames. Yes, flames. While their own bodies remain unharmed, everything and anything around them combusts. To keep the twins (and Madison and her senator’s carefully curated lives – he’s about to run for U.S. president, after all) safe will be Lillian’s 24/7 responsibility. But first, she’ll need to gain the children’s trust.

When it comes to unconventional families, Wilson again proves himself a master of heartstring-tugging, drop-jaw shocking, guffaw-inducing, (can’t resist) highly combustible entertainment.

Shelf Talker: Kevin Wilson’s rollicking novel Nothing to See Here is a fiery ode to unexpected, unconventional family love.

Review: Shelf Awareness Pro, September 27, 2019

Readers: Adult

Published: 2019


No Comment

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.