Some are born weird; some have weirdness thrust upon them.

Some are born weird; some have weirdness thrust upon them.

“The Weirds acquired their surname through a series of events that some would call coincidence and others would call fate.”

Andrew Kaufman is up there with Agatha Christie, Jasper Fforde and Douglas Coupland as one of my favourite writers of all time. Although he’s only penned four books, and none of them are very long – two are barely one hundred pages each – he manages to weave such beauty into his prose that his skill can’t really be brought into question. The man has immense talent, and once again he’s proved himself to be a master storyteller.

This is the story of the Weird family, five siblings who have, without their knowledge, been cursed. When each was born, their grandmother Annie Weird, known to them as The Shark, bestowed upon them a special power. The eldest, Richard, would always stay safe; Abba would never lose hope; Lucy would never get lost; Kent would be physically stronger than anyone he fought; and Angie would always forgive everybody, instantly.

But the children are now adults and haven’t spoken in years. Angie finds herself meeting her grandmother again, who informs her that she is not far off dying. She has realised now that the blessings she gave her grandchildren have become curses. If Angie can get all five Weird siblings into her hospital room before she dies in thirteen days, she will remove their gifts before she dies, leaving them free again. Angie at first refuses, but her grandmother soon proves that she is more than capable of bending the universe to make life hell, so with no other option, Angie sets about tracking down her siblings.

Kaufman has a rare gift in that he can make the magical seem mundane and the mundane seem magical. Angie and her siblings are not particularly thrown by the notion of the curses (or “blursings” as they become known, a portmanteau of “blessing” and “curse”), as if that sort of thing just happens. He also throws in other fun asides, such as the fact that both Annie and Angie have hearts twice the average size, that as kids the five built a city in their attic called Rainytown, and that Abba just now happens to be the queen of a country called Upliffta. No time is wasted dwelling on these points, they just are what they are.

While sweet and magical, it’s also tragically heartbreaking. The kids are almost alone in the world after their father disappears one night and, mad with grief, their mother forgets who they are and becomes convinced that the family home is a hotel she’s staying at. The characters are all well-realised and believable, despite their blursings. Angie has become a pushover, Richard is three-times divorced because whenever things stop feeling safe, he backs away, and Lucy never has to ask for directions, either in the physical world or in life generally. This is a book that shows you why our flaws aren’t flaws – they’re what round us out.

I’ve yet to read a Kaufman I didn’t like, and I have a feeling I probably never will. Read this book now, because it’s just quite simply beautiful.