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All Families are Psychotic [Paperback]

Douglas Coupland
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 July 2002

On the eve of the next Space Shuttle mission, a divided family comes together…Warm, witty and wise, ‘All Families Are Psychotic’ is Coupland at the very top of his form.

In a cheap motel an hour from Cape Canaveral, Janet Drummond takes her medication, and does a rapid tally of the whereabouts of her children. Wade has spent the night in jail; suicidal Bryan is due to arrive at any moment with his vowel-free girlfriend, Shw; and then there is Sarah, ‘a bolt of lightning frozen in midflash’ – here in Orlando to be the star of Friday’s shuttle mission. With Janet’s ex-husband and his trophy wife also in town, Janet spends a moment contemplating her family, and where it all went wrong. Or did it?

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All Families are Psychotic + Girlfriend in a Coma + Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture
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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Flamingo; New Ed edition (1 July 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007117531
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007117536
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 203,709 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Amazon Review

In All Families Are Psychotic, Coupland combines Anne Tyler's compassionate command of family relationships with a world-view that probably hails from a distant galaxy. His latest work of genius is fast-paced, blisteringly funny and the literary equivalent of electric-shock therapy.

NASA Astronauts must be the healthiest people on the planet, and Sarah Drummond, preparing for her debut launch from Cape Canaveral, is no exception. Unfortunately, Sarah's family, gathered in Florida to witness the take-off, is sick--in every sense. Her brother Wade, a low-rent hockey star whose only real talent is bedding women, is performing an elaborate tango with terminal illness and the Federal Penitentiary system. Her mother Janet is a devotee of Internet porn and outlawed medication. Then there's Bryan, who has nothing wrong with him except a highly contradictory desire to have children and kill himself. And Bryan's girlfriend, who really is called Shaw, and really doesn't care about much except renting her womb to the highest bidder.

While Sarah patiently prepares for outer space, Wade glimpses a lucrative, if desperate remedy to his family's manifold miseries. And as the countdown begins, the dysfunctional Drummonds--a family who have hitherto been unable to meet up without sustaining gunshot wounds--find themselves united in a last, labyrinthine quest for personal salvation. It's a journey punctuated by medication schedules, peppered with sleazy trailer-parks and even sleazier characters, a Disneyworld scented with dirty money and encroaching death. But somewhere along the way, the Drummonds are about to discover that they're not much different to any other family.

--Matthew Baylis --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.


‘Heartbreakingly bitter-sweet…This book will make you want to phone your own psychotic family and tell them how much you love them.’ Daily Telegraph

‘Miraculous…has you laughing, thinking and crying all at once.’ Evening Standard

‘As funny as The Simpsons…The dialogue fizzes and snarls with brilliant one-liners. By the end of this energetic yet philosophical novel you will be cheering on its hapless rabble of outcasts, for Coupland's coup de theatre is to entice you to suffer this family as if it were your own.’ The Times

‘Irresistibly hilarious, unique and wonderful.’ Independent on Sunday

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Perhaps a bit too fragmented 2 Nov 2007
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I like Douglas Coupland a lot: his quirky stories show great sympathy for unpromising characters, and he often finds optimism and redemption in the most unlikely places. I particularly enjoyed the way he tried to make sense of tragedy in Hey Nostradamus!, the magic realism of Girlfriend in a Coma and, of course, the pinpoint accuracy of Microserfs. That eye for detail - and the way he conjures up original and apt metaphors - is one of his defining characteristics, I think. So my heart sank when I read in the flashback on p32 of this book that Janet had been shot in the right lung, because on p1 - indeed, in the very first paragraph - she was fingering the bullet scar over her left ribcage. It's just a small point, but it made me wonder whether he was pulling these characters together in a bit of a hurry. Certainly - as others have pointed out - there's a contrived feeling to some of their back-stories; this wouldn't be so noticable though if there was more of a plot to this story. Unfortunately, all they seem to do is drive from one motel to another, in various configurations (at one point, I found I'd forgotten where each of the characters was supposed to be, which is a good sign of incipient lack of interest).

There are still some nice Coupland touches here, such as the description of Daytona Beach as being the town for all "those people who run to the ticket booth first on the morning after a lottery" (p176), and Janet's realization after too much driving through Florida that "this landscape is from an amusement park. I'm on a ride - a ride shaped like an orange VW camper" (p171). But overall, I think the pieces don't really come together to make one of his best works.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Scarily amusing and relevant 26 Jan 2005
I would urge people not to take some of the more scathing reviews here too seriously, this book is funny, warming, surreal, insane, and peppered with Couplands usual acts of miraculous metaphorical incident which have always made him compelling reading and one of the most relevant voices in modern literature. As always he is trying to make sense of the world and life through another of his strangely cooked set pieces enfusing his characters with dry wit and a wonderful sense of unreality that so closely shadows many peoples own experiences whilst often taking them to bizarre new realms. It's this Dali like twist on what he sees around him that make his characters so relevant and help to combat what could be self indulgent musing by giving the voice a character, like Coupland almost understands the complete irrelevance of what he tries to do book after book. Whilst Girlfriend in a Coma still stands as his most wonderfully immersive work so far, do not write this one off as a mere shadow, revel in its insolence, it's almost conspiracy theorist plotline and its wonderful flights of fantasy that bring such joy to characters that deserve to be part of the imaginitive miracle that Coupland concocts. Heartily recommended, especially to those whose own family lives haven't always been sweetness and bliss- that would be most of us wouldn't it?
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars D.C devotee 20 Mar 2006
By puddin
Absolutely wonderfull.No other author can make you laugh as often as he can make you cry. The simple idealism that this book ends on is beautifull. If only the carrot Coupland often dangles was real enough to bite so we could have more than a teasing glimpse of his world. It kept me distracted at work, I couldn't put it down. By far worth a read, and should this be the first book you read by him order Girlfriend in a coma and Life after God as back up, because trust me you'll want to start it all over again.xx
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "And they'll think they've just seen a star." 13 Aug 2007
By Archy
Excellent book. Not much can be said about it other than it is a must read, funny, interesting, and believable... well, maybe just funny and interesting.

The completely over-the-top plot would usually put me off a book, but the hillarious situations and genuinely brilliant characters kept me hooked from start to finish.

The relationships in this book although downright bizzare, are also beautiful, and the last few lines between Janet and Sarah give the book the perfect ending.

Since reading this I have read Coupland's first book, Generation X, which was dissapionting in comparison to this, but I still look forward to reading some of his other work such as Girlfriend In A Coma and JPod.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not the return to form I'd hoped for. 9 Sep 2001
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
By half-way through the book, too much has happened in too few pages for any semblance of credibility to be left, and one is left limping towards the end wondering what can come next. Characters seem to shrug off incidents that would leave most of us breathless for days with an easy insouciance, and then wander into the next wham-bang maelstrom, like refugees from a bad FX-driven film with little storyline, which is how this reads.
Coupland is no stranger to adding fantastical plot-twists to his stories - see "Girlfriend in a Coma" for an example of this - but in other books he has been more restrained than in this one, where he should have followed up one of the numerous dramatic events rather than piling them on indiscriminately.
I think some of Coupland's books are exceptional, but this, like "Miss Wyoming", is not one of them. Maybe middle-age is sitting uncomfortably on Coupland's shoulders - the Gen. X's are all baby-bound, the Net is old hat and he is no longer the messenger bringing us the news from the front line.
I would give this book less than 3 stars if it had been the first book he had written. Read "Generation X", "Microserfs" and "Girlfriend in a Coma", but don't bother with this unless you are a Coupland-lover (like I am) who needs to have the latest on your bookshelf.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars dissappointing read
I understood it was to be a laugh out loud book, I didn't even raise a smile
the characters were not engaging or likable, the subject wasn't funny
the storey zig zagged... Read more
Published 9 months ago by cooki
5.0 out of 5 stars Funny
Another comedy gold for Coupland! Get this, get Jpod get Gum Theif! . . . . . . . .
Published 19 months ago by Ozzie
3.0 out of 5 stars a tale of disenchantment
With life already being disenchanting enough its hard to take in a novel whose overall mood is this. Read more
Published 20 months ago by Mr. Robert Marsland
1.0 out of 5 stars Soap suds
I read this book because it was selected by my reading group, it is the worst choice ever. It reads like a tacky American soap opera shown on one of the obscure digital TV channels... Read more
Published on 28 Dec 2011 by ChrisChick
4.0 out of 5 stars Easy reading
An enjoyable read to fly through. An interesting well thought out story. I am buying more Coupland books on the back of reading this.
Published on 26 Oct 2011 by Goldbaaren
1.0 out of 5 stars One for the charity pile
Like many other reviewers I loved Microserfs and Girlfriend in a Coma, both of which pull off the trick of being both stylish and poignant, while saying something interesting about... Read more
Published on 27 Feb 2011 by L. Tolman
1.0 out of 5 stars Very poor.
The first D Coupland book I'm reading, 2/3rds the way through and I'm totally unimpressed. Find it bland and trivial. It reads like a second-rate teenage novel. Read more
Published on 11 Aug 2010 by F Drew
5.0 out of 5 stars One of my favourite books
I believe that, along with Generation X and Generation A, this ranks as one of Douglas Coupland's best books. Read more
Published on 15 April 2010 by Complainathon
4.0 out of 5 stars pure escapism
Fast, fantastical and funny! What more can I say the plot(s) twist and twine - it's crazy and chaotic but as long as you buy that you're in for a treat. Read more
Published on 30 Mar 2010 by J. A. Brown
5.0 out of 5 stars Not as you know him
All Families Are Psychotic is not normal Coupland fare by any chance. It's not full of of observation and apocalypse.

However, this is not a bad thing. Read more
Published on 4 Dec 2008 by Heather Mclellan
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