I read this in 2018, I think, as a book from the library. The primary protagonist is a teenage boy who can do astral travel, with him discovering the gift when peeping on his female cousin and her friend changing in her room. Unfortunately for him, the astral travel results in him falling over, seemingly comatose, also leading to his peeping being discovered, or at least highly suspected. As the book progresses, the family history becomes revealed. The patriarch, the main character's grandfather, is a stage magician, or at least a general con man, who married a genuine psychic. There was an incident when they were on a late-night show to show off the family's abilities, with a prominent skeptic there to point out all of the tricks they were using to fake their powers. He had explained away a few of their tricks by the time of intermission when, I think, one of the kids has a meltdown or stage fright, resulting in the mother driving somewhere and getting into a car accident, leading to her death. After that time, no one in the family (apparently) uses their talents again. The main character is a grandson of the original couple who grew up with stories of his family's psychic abilities, but assumed that it was a scam that his grandfather had managed to convince himself was true.

Organized crime was a facet of the story, with the grandfather's arthritis later being explained as the result of him succumbing to pride during a card game and winning the game with an impossible hand of cards (he was supposed to win, but not so obviously) and him getting his hands crushed in a pizza machine. The protagonist is planning to use his abilities to get the combination of a safe in a mob bar so that he can steal the money to help his family. And near the end, a mobster with a gun shows up at the house.

One of the boy's uncles is seemingly crazy, constantly buying strange things on the Internet and doing weird home renovations. It turns out he's a strong precognitive, to the point where he has trouble being in touch with reality because he confuses what's going to happen with what has happened. In the past, there was an incident where he participated in a "get rich" scheme with another uncle involving a riverboat casino. Either before or after things go wrong there (I think involving either a prediction going wrong or said uncle messing up their gift), he meets with a prostitute who turns out to be a trans woman (which is not really considered all that significant in the plot other than her revealing that to him and him stating that he's perfectly fine with it), who I think he eventually winds up with at the end of the book. One of the oddities of his gift is that he can't see the future after a particular date, leading to him being sure that that's when the world ends. I actually don't remember exactly why he can't predict the future after that date, but that date involves the criminal with the gun showing up, and his home renovations kick in, with a set of patio stones being tremendously slick when wet, and the shutters he'd installed on the windows protecting the children from ricochets. There's also something involving diet supplements that one of the other uncles tried to peddle (I think the same "get rich" scheme guy) causing intestinal distress in the target at just the right time.

Oh, and the grandfather met his wife initially when they're hired to do remote viewing for the military. Later in the flashback, he does a common magic trick involving getting three people to write down predictions on pieces of paper and predicting their contents by setting things up so that he's always reading the next person's paper (I forget the name of the actual trick, but I recognized it). Anyhow, he provides all sorts of fascinating stories for the government that make them think he's a valued asset, but it's clear that she's the real deal. The other reveal, near the end of the story, is that the skeptic who has always been the hated nemesis of the family, was on their side the whole time, in league with the grandfather. The TV show appearance was set up so that he could prove their powers by failing to come up with an answer to how they did it. And I think the grandfather received his wife's last letter, where she explained that she knew she was going to die soon, and that she'd set things up for him to receive the letter when he really needed it.

I think it was a hardback book. I don't recall the name of it. The family's name sounded kind of Old World, maybe Jewish of some sort? And that's all I can recall at the moment.

1 Answer 1


Might this be Spoonbenders (2017) by Daryl Gregory?

enter image description here

Spoonbenders follows the lives of a "somewhat dysfunctional and often hilarious" Telemachus family. The main characters include: Teddy Telemachus, the patriarch (a con man), Maureen, his wife (a powerful psychic), their three children Irene (a human lie detector), Frankie (a telekinetic), and Buddy (a person who can foretell the future), and Matty, Irene's son who can travel outside his body when sexually aroused by thoughts of his cousin Mary Alice (nicknamed Malice).

The story line of Spoonbenders moves back and forth between the 1960s, when Teddy and Maureen meet in a classified ESP study, and the 1990s, when their three children are coping with life and the death of their mother. In the early days, the Telemachus family toured as a group showing off their superpowers. This early success is thwarted when they participate on a television show and are debunked, James Randi style, and discredited. As adult children, Irene, Frankie, and Buddy are struggling to cope. Irene's lie detecting abilities have ruined her relationships, Frankie's telekinesis, rather than help him, has gotten him in trouble with the mob with a get rich scheme, and Buddy's "memory of the future" has left him verbally paralyzed (he does not want to upset the future) and digging holes in his father's backyard. Irene's 14-year-old son, Matty, too, develops out-of-body experiences while spying on his step-cousin, Mary Alice, and masturbating. Along with threats from the mob, the family is being investigated by a government agent who had worked with Maureen years earlier.

  • 1
    I feel like if if spent the time i did writing up that question instead upon a few more searches, I would have found it because that summary is almost embarrassingly on the nose. Thank you.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Commented Mar 19, 2021 at 12:23

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.