Julie's Reviews > Spoonbenders

Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory
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really liked it
bookshelves: 2017, e-book, fantasy, overdrive, science-fiction

Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory is a 2017 Knopf publication.


This book was a real treat for me! It’s eccentric, hilarious, a madcap family saga, and a thoroughly entertaining fantasy.

I am showing my age here, but I do remember stage shows during the 1970’s where people performed variations of telekinesis, such as bending spoons with their minds. I had forgotten all about these stage/magic shows until I saw the title of this book and I knew I had to read it.


This story is centered around ‘The Amazing Telemachus family’, featuring Teddy Telemachus, the family patriarch, who is, in truth, a con artist. But, his wife, Maureen, is the real deal. She really is psychic and their children have inherited her paranormal abilities. Irene can tell if someone is lying or telling the truth, Frankie can move objects with his mind, and Buddy can see the future.

The family stage act was amazing indeed, until they were outed as frauds on the ‘Mike Douglas Show’.
From there the family tragically spiraled into relative obscurity.

The book is set in 1995, where we find that Maureen has passed on at a tragically young age, Teddy is still running his tried and true scams, Irene is a divorced single mother who has moved back into her family home with her son, Matty, and Frankie is married with three daughters. But, Buddy, seems to have lost his sanity, constantly beginning a project, but never finishing it, and is pretty much mute. No one seems to know quite what he’s up to.

Employing the use of flashbacks, we learn how Teddy and Maureen met, and how the government became aware of her unique gifts, why she decided to work with them, the profound affect her life and death had on her children, and how their unusual abilities shaped them into the adults they became.

Matty becomes a central character in the story as he is seemingly the one grandchild who has inherited his family’s paranormal gifts. He is the one who needs to discover his family history, especially that of his grandmother, and must be protected from government employees who would like to use his abilities to their advantage.

In one way, this is Matty’s coming of age story, but it is mostly a family saga, which spans over three generations.

I loved the nostalgia this story brought back. The seventies, The Mike Douglas Show, the hardcore fascination with psychic phenomenon and ESP and so on, but the nineties! OMG! AOL disc, online chat rooms, Gateway computers and VHS tapes- no- I can’t say I miss any of those things, but it was fun to have a book set in this decade.

“Nothing killed nostalgia for your childhood home like moving back into it”


This family is not exactly role model material. They have trouble with the mob, run cons, and curse up a blue streak sometimes, and many other quirky flaws and general strangeness.

‘Once a man had committed emotionally to the con, it was near impossible to claw his way back to objectivity.”

At the heart of the story is the emerging connection between Maureen, who, although she’s been gone for many years, still communicates with Teddy, via letters that arrive in blue envelopes, and her grandson, Matty.

The author did an amazing job of building a charming and fantastical story around connecting time frames and family generations.

I rarely say anything about content, mainly because we are dealing with art and context, but I couldn’t help but think how much broader the reach such a book might have if not for the language used. It wasn’t necessary, in my opinion, and took away from the story’s charisma.

There were a few other questionable scenes, but with just a small tweak here or there, this book really could have a mass appeal, for young or old alike.

Besides this one complaint, I thought the characters are very well constructed, believable, and although quite dysfunctional, I liked them, warts and all.

There are a few poignant moments, a little romance, and some hilarious antics and dialogue, a little mystery and suspense, plenty of action and adventure, and lots and lots of intrigue, mingling with the paranormal whimsy I found myself completely wrapped up in.

“The thing about skeletons was, you never knew how much space they were taking up in the closet until you got rid of them.”

The plot may appear to ramble down various dead -end paths, making one wonder where all this is leading, but amazingly, the threads all converge into one huge grand finale that really did feel like pure magic.

Overall, this is an offbeat, but utterly charming and delightful tale. Even if you don’t normally indulge in the paranormal or fantasy genres, I think the deeper implications will resonate, and before long you just might find yourself as enchanted by it as I was.

4 stars



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Reading Progress

July 28, 2017 – Shelved
July 28, 2017 – Shelved as: to-read
July 28, 2017 – Shelved as: 2017
July 28, 2017 – Shelved as: e-book
July 28, 2017 – Shelved as: fantasy
July 28, 2017 – Shelved as: overdrive
July 28, 2017 – Shelved as: science-fiction
Started Reading
August 6, 2017 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-34 of 34 (34 new)

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message 1: by Jen (new)

Jen I love this title! Great review, Julie


message 2: by Mike (new)

Mike Happy to see your 4 stars. I surprised myself and found this in the secondhand bookstore last weekend for $5 and was excited as I hadn't seen any reviews for it yet. I'll come back and check yours out when I do so, Julie. The concept certainly caught my attention.


message 3: by Paul (new)

Paul Falk Outstanding review Julie!


Julie Jen wrote: "I love this title! Great review, Julie"

Thank you, Jen!!


Julie Mike wrote: "Happy to see your 4 stars. I surprised myself and found this in the secondhand bookstore last weekend for $5 and was excited as I hadn't seen any reviews for it yet. I'll come back and check yours ..."

Wow! You got a bargain, Mike! That's why I love used book stores!!
I hope you enjoy this one as much as I did! Happy reading!!


Julie Paul wrote: "Outstanding review Julie!"

Thank you, Paul!!


message 7: by Meredith (new)

Meredith Great review, Julie! Sounds really interesting.


Julie Meredith wrote: "Great review, Julie! Sounds really interesting."

Thank you, Meredith!! It was a nice change of pace!


message 9: by Susanne (new)

Susanne  Strong This sounds wildly entertaining Julie! Great review!


Julie Susanne wrote: "This sounds wildly entertaining Julie! Great review!"
Thank you, Susanne!! It was pretty zany- very unique!


message 11: by Niki (new) - rated it 2 stars

Niki Eeee, I'm jealous! I wish I had this at hand to read!


Jaline - (on partial hiatus) Fabulous review, Julie! This is on my wishlist and sounds like a unique and intriguing read!


message 13: by Deanna (new)

Deanna Wonderful review, Julie!


message 14: by Frances (new)

Frances Glad you enjoyed Julie; great review!!


Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader Wonderful review, Julie! This sounds like a bunch of fun!


Mary Beth *Traveling Sister* Wow Julie! I love your review. This looks so good. I had to add it. I hope my library has it.


Julie Mary wrote: "Wow Julie! I love your review. This looks so good. I had to add it. I hope my library has it."

Thank you, Mary!! I hope you can find a copy!! Enjoy!!


Julie Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader wrote: "Wonderful review, Julie! This sounds like a bunch of fun!"

Thank you, Jennifer!! It was an adventure!!


Julie Frances wrote: "Glad you enjoyed Julie; great review!!"

Thank you, Frances!!


Julie Deanna wrote: "Wonderful review, Julie!"

Thank you, Deanna!!


Julie Jaline wrote: "Fabulous review, Julie! This is on my wishlist and sounds like a unique and intriguing read!"

Thank you, Jaline!! I hope you like it as much as I did!


Julie Niki wrote: "Eeee, I'm jealous! I wish I had this at hand to read!"

I hope you can get your hands on a copy soon!! Good luck!


message 23: by Deborah (new)

Deborah Great review Julie 💙


message 24: by Rita (new)

Rita Schuldt loved your review but not going to read the book. I'm so happy that you liked it.


Julie Deborah wrote: "Great review Julie 💙"

Thank you, Deborah!!


Julie Rita wrote: "loved your review but not going to read the book. I'm so happy that you liked it."

Thank you, Rita!!


message 27: by [deleted user] (new)

i still use a vcr on occasion.


Julie paulie wrote: "i still use a vcr on occasion."

My son still has one, I think. Sadly, some movies never made the transition from VHS to DVD, so it might be a good idea to have one around.


message 29: by G.H. (new)

G.H. Eckel wow, great review, Julie!


Julie G.H. wrote: "wow, great review, Julie!"

Thank you, G.H.!!


message 31: by DeB (new) - rated it 4 stars

DeB MaRtEnS Expansive, fully framed review, Julie. You have convinced me to put it back on my TBR list.... I do love quirky done well.


Julie DeB wrote: "Expansive, fully framed review, Julie. You have convinced me to put it back on my TBR list.... I do love quirky done well."

Thank you, DeB!! Enjoy!! 😊


Victoria This was a treat for me too, Julie! This was so well done, you captured it perfectly.


Julie Victoria wrote: "This was a treat for me too, Julie! This was so well done, you captured it perfectly."

Thank you very much, Victoria!! I'm glad you enjoyed it too!!


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