When I lived in India my friend and I believed that you either liked Rohinton Mistry (me) or Salman Rushdie (him). It was just another way of saying either you liked magic realism or you didn’t. I did not. That is why I have never read Andrew Kaufman before. I’ve heard him speak at various functions and gatherings and found him engaging and witty, but I couldn’t ever temporarily suspend my disbelief to give one of his novels a try … until now. Born Weird is wonderful, but you likely know that already because I have not seen one bad or even lukewarm review of it.
Born Weird is a simple story, a family saga. Angie is summoned to her grandmother’s deathbed to gather her siblings together for the grandmother’s death. You see, the grandmother, at each child’s birth, endowed them with a ‘blurse’ (a blessing/ curse). At the time of her death she wishes to relieve them all of their burden. It has been eight years since the siblings last saw one another, but Angie travels the country picking each one up along the way. Unusual happenings plague her journey. Some might call them coincidences, but not a Weird. Early on in the novel Grandma Weird declares,
Until you realize that coincidences don’t exist, your life will be filled with them … Everywhere you look there coincidences will be. Coincidence! Coincidence! Coincidence! But the moment you accept that there is not such thing, they will disappear forever and you will never encounter another.
I thoroughly enjoyed Born Weird in spite of the tidbits of magic realism (or coincidences?) that enter the story here and there. They are consistent with the over all tone and purpose of the story and do not overshadow the plot or characters in any way. RandomHouse has done a particularly good job in packaging the book. Each chapter is headed with a small illustration of a crown, shark, camera or some such thing as on the cover shown above. It’s a small thing, but it ties the work together.
Who would like this book? Born Weird is a quick, fun and entertaining read. It was nominated for the Stephen Leacock Award for Humour in 2013, so that lets you know the caliber of the writing and the level of the wit. It is also a truly Canadian novel, as the Weirds journey the breadth of Canada from the east coast to the west. From that point of view, it would be well suited to read during a great Canadian car trip. The focus on family could put it in a position to be compared to The Family Fang, though Born Weird isn’t nearly so dark. Overall, I would highly recommend Born Weird for a nice, quick summertime read (ideally read while lazing in a hammock with drink in hand).