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Family, Genus, Species Paperback – May 2, 2017
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"Kevin Allardice harnesses his great powers of description and ingenious sense of narrative for this viciously funny satire, Family Genus Species. Laurence Sterne would have been proud to call Mr. Allardice a descendent." - Michael Kimball, author of Big Ray, Us and Dear Everybody
"With poignant wit, Kevin Allardice draws us into this backyard fairytale and social satire. Vee is a memorable protagonist, quirky and brave and tender. Fast-paced and suspenseful, FAMILY, GENUS, SPECIES is compelling and utterly original." - Vanessa Hua, author of Deceit and Other Possibilities
About the Author
Kevin Allardice is the author of the novel Any Resemblance to Actual Persons (Counterpoint, 2014) . He was born in Oakland, California, and was a Henry Hoyns fellow in fiction at the University of Virginia, where he received his MFA in 2010. His short stories, winner of the of the Donald Barthelme Prize and twice nominated for a Pushcart Prize, have appeared in The Santa Monica Review, The Florida Review, Gulf Coast, The North American Review, and elsewhere. He currently lives in Berkeley, California.
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Here's the set-up; take it or leave it. The protagonist is an overweight and underachieving young woman who calls herself Vee. (We'll find out later where this name comes from but wish we hadn't.) Vee arrives in the urban garden behind her sister Pam's house in North Berkeley for a birthday party for Pam's four-year-old son, Charlie. Vee carries a present for Charlie, a plastic model of a huge dinosaur. Pam had made clear in her invitation that guests were not to bring presents—family and friends are gifts enough, in her view—but for some reason Vee is determined that Charlie get the dinosaur. For much of the novel, the action centers around Vee's hours-long and exceedingly frustrating efforts to find Charlie so she can place the gift in his hands. Somehow, this deceptively low-key domestic saga devolves into a violent climax involving an attempted rape, small children acting like characters out of Lord of the Flies, "protesters" who have invaded the Berkeley Hills, and police officers in riot gear who descend from black helicopters intent on mayhem.
So, what's wrong with any of this, you might ask? For starters, Vee is not a sympathetic character. Even though her big sister is obviously a self-involved (and, yes, self-righteous) pain in the ass, Vee is even less likable: self-pitying, aimless, and ultimately uninteresting. The children at Charlie's party who are described as "small children, from diaper-age to first grade," suddenly end up acting and speaking like teenagers on speed. And Pam's "sprawling urban farm" clearly occupies as much territory as a national forest, since people can get lost in it for hours on end. In Berkeley.