When I first started reading Geek Love I realized two things pretty quickly. I had no idea what geek really meant or where it came from, and this was going to be a difficult book to keep reading.
This is a book that asks one fundamental question: How much of who we are is tied to our appearance and our very physicality? The author Katherine Dunn explored this topic in an impressive array of plots and subplots.
The main storyline is about a man, Al Binewski, who "engineers" his family's physical features by having his wife take poisons and do other dangerous things to modify the body of each fetus. He owns a carnival and what better way of running a "freak show" than by creating your own?
There is also the subplot of the man who tries to murder the Binewski family only to become disfigured and ends up working with the carnival. Only some of the family is aware of who he really is.
Then one of Al's children (the brilliant, egotistical, "aqua boy" Aurtoro) creates his own cult where the "chosen" opt to have their body parts removed surgically over time.
If that's not enough, there is the parallel story line of one of the other children, Oly, the narrator and herself a bald, humpbacked, albino dwarf, who is now grown and has befriended a woman she intends to kill. The woman is wealthy and coerces beautiful women to make themselves less desirable to men through arranged disfigurements. She convinces them this freedom is the only way they can become successful in life.
And actually, it's even more complicated than that, but I'm glad I struggled through the first half and kept reading. Not only is this one of the most unusual books I've ever read, but it looks at topics like disfigurements, "normalcy", family love, etc., in a way that makes the reader think about his or her own opinions and biases in new ways.
The book offers no real answers to any of the questions if raises except to leave one with the impression that sometimes our ability to think and reason can be as much a hinderance to our happiness, success, and ability to love as shortsightedness ever has been.