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Book Review: The Love Curse of the Rumbaughs by Jack Gantos

Let me just start by saying this book is weird. If you are the type that likes your stories odd, quirky, or just out of the norm, this book is for you. And although this book was in the teen collection, I imagine adults would enjoy it, too. The work is reminiscent of a F. Scott Fitzgerald tale. It's not set in the 1920s, but there is the same feel of magical realism and of characters that don't fit in normal society. It also reminded me of Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, OH, because it deals with life in a small town. Sometimes these small, seemingly quaint towns hold the deepest secrets.

The difficulty I have is giving a plot summary. It's one of those books that is really hard to describe. Rather than try to describe the plot, I will just tell you how the book starts. We meet Ivy, our protagonist, when she is seven years old. She tells us that she lives in a small town and that she is often in a drug store where the Rumbaugh twins live and work. We aren't sure why she spends so much time there, yet, but she is there often enough that the twins have a playroom for her. One day, she goes down to the playroom and she sees the twins' mother--the twins' mother, who happens to be dead--The twins' mother who happens to be dead and stuffed through taxidermy. Yes, that's right, just like Norman Bates. Although the twins deny it and say she's a stuffed bear, Ivy can't get this image out of her mind.

She is frightened and fascinated by what she sees. That's when she finds out about the curse of the Rumbaughs, who love their mothers to the point of obsession. What Ivy sees that day will connect her to the twins for the rest of her life.

Now, although this book is creepy, there's no murder or incest, so it's a far cry from Psycho. Gantos, who writes the popular Joey Pigza books, gets the combination of elements just right. The mood is that of a psychological fairy tale. It has the subtle creepiness of a Grimm fairytale.

Give this to older teens that enjoy darker reads such as Francesca Lia Block.

Comments

Ms. Yingling said…
I can't think what student will request this. It was so weird and disturbing, but not in a good way. I couldn't bring myself to buy it, although I like the author's other workd.

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