Top Ten Tuesday: Is ‘Dysfunctional Family Fiction’ A Genre? It is Now.

This week’sTTT, hosted by The Broke and The Bookish, is all about the hidden gems of a particular genre. For some reason, I have found this topic really difficult, mainly because I don’t particularly read genres. Or do I? I don’t even know. Anyway, I’ve invented one; it’s called Dysfunctional Families and it should definitely have its own section in Waterstones.

The Seed Collectors by Scarlett Thomas
A classic trope of this genre I have just invented is the dead relative/bizarre will, which is what happens here when all of a great aunt’s heirs are left a seed pod. They’re all pretty awful (the heirs, not the seeds) and my mum disliked this book because they all swore too much.

The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson
I really liked this book and its crazy family, with parents to whom everything is a performance and their grown-up children who would really prefer it wasn’t.

A Semi Definitive List of Worst Nightmares by Krystal Sutherland
This new YA novel features a family torn to pieces by a curse and a selection of crippling phobias. Esther always dresses in costume. Her brother is so scared of the dark that he tapes over light switches to stop anyone turning them off. Oh, and the grandad is sort-of mates with the Grim Reaper. Standard.

The Mandibles by Lionel Shriver
I can’t think of any of Shriver’s books that feature a properly functioning family unit, but this is a particularly fine example of a group of relations who should just cut their losses and leave each other alone. Living through the complete financial collapse of the USA doesn’t really help.

Beloved by Toni Morrison
I finally read this a few weeks ago and, like all Morrison’s novels, it features a family with some serious issues. Sethe had four children, but two left home and another remains only as a ghost: the eponymous Beloved. This book is super creepy.

Here I Am by Jonathan Safran Foer
Generations of a Jewish family find their relationships challenged by their own bad behaviour and a global crisis. I loved this book.

Watch Your Mouth by Daniel Handler
Not so much dysfunctional as completely wrong and illegal. Like, they family are all sleeping together. Yeah, it’s not nice.

If You Look For Me, I Am Not There by Sarayu Srivatsa
A mother loses her daughter, whose twin ends up pretending to be his sister. It’s confusing.

Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Adichie’s books all feature dysfunctional characters, and this one shows the effects of a religious fanatic father on his children.

East of Eden by John Steinbeck
Obviously this would be a family-in-crisis kind of book, taking its inspiration from Cain and Abel. Also it features one of my favourite messed-up characters of all time in Cathy Ames.

I love a fictional dysfunctional family, so if you have any more novels from this genre I’ve invented to recommend, go right ahead.

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