A National Book Award Finalist: This 'wonderfully descriptive' novel from an author with a 'tremendous imagination' tells the unforgettable story of the Binewskis, a carny family whose mater- and paterfamilias have bred their own exhibit of human oddities. (The New York Times Book Review)
The Binewskis arex a circus-geek family…
Shepherd is reader supported. We may earn an affiliate commission when you buy through links on our website. (learn more)
Why read it?
4 authors picked Geek Love as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?
Geek Love is one of the strangest, most fascinating, and thoroughly unsettling novels I’ve ever read. It tells the story of a carny family whose mother and father breed their own exhibit of human oddities with the help of a variety of illicit drugs, insecticides, and radioisotopes. I’ve certainly felt freakish at times, but compared to the Binewski spawn—a boy with flippers, a hunchbacked albino dwarf, resplendent piano-playing Siamese twins, and Fortunato, the normal-looking baby who has telekinetic powers—I feel downright ordinary! The story is beautiful, shocking, repulsive, exhilarating, and deeply moving all at once, and might challenge your conceptions…
This one is a bit of a stretch but hear me out: This is one of my all-time favorite books. It is a twisted story of a circus family and their experiences with racism, sexism, cults, body dysmorphia, and many other issues. One (or two) of the main characters is a set of Siamese twins, joined at the hip, who play the piano with four hands as part of their circus act. The book isn’t explicitly about music, but music plays into the epic and amazing story about equality.
Geek Love subverts the American dream in the best and most disturbing way, outlining the “horror of normalcy” in a story about parents who run a carnival and literally breed their children to be circus freaks, from conjoined twins to a girl with a pig tail to Arturo the Aqua boy—complete with flippers. These children of the carnival take pride in their freakishness, in their unusual bodies, though the story takes increasingly dark twists and turns that will make you unable to put it down…I became so engrossed in it during my initial read that I stayed up till…
I have yet to meet someone who doesn't love this novel, though I'm sure there must be plenty of Amazon reviewers that hate it. Katherine Dunn's masterpiece chronicles the Binewskis, a drug-addled carny family who set out to breed their own circus freaks. Hilarity, violence, sibling rivalry, and all manner of insanity ensues as the reader encounters, among others, Arturo the Aquaboy, Siamese twins, and an albino hunchback. What else can I say? It's wonderful, funny, and unsettling in equal measure, and as epic a family story as anything Steinbeck undertook.
Our community of 6,000+ authors has personally recommended 10 books like Geek Love.