10 Dysfunctional Literary Families We’d Secretly Like to Join


You know the quote: “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Whether you believe Tolstoy or not, there’s something alluring about dysfunctional families, especially when they’re strictly literary. This week saw the release of Mark Haddon’s newest novel The Red House , the story of a family cooped up in a country house together for a week of what should be vacation, but ends up being full of family secrets, personal revelations, and complex dynamics. All that aside, we realized that we wouldn’t mind being part of their tragicomedy, and we got to thinking about some of our other favorite literary families that we sort of wish would adopt us. Click through to see which fictional families we picked, and let us know which ones you’d choose in the comments.

The Glass Family, of Nine Stories and Franny and Zooey

It’s not every day a couple of ex-vaudeville performers span a brood of genius offspring. As tortured and dangerously precocious as they all are, we’d love to be wedged in with all the Glass children, if only so we could see how they think. Plus, then we’d obviously get to be on It’s a Wise Child, one of our most dearly held dreams.

The Lisbons, of The Virgin Suicides

Yes, we realize this probably means we’d have to commit suicide. But our teenage selves just wouldn’t forgive us if we didn’t admit that we wouldn’t love to be a part of that dreamy, alluring, disastrous Lisbon sisterhood, with all their secret rituals and wedding dress-robed angst. Until the dying part, that is.

The Binewskis, of Geek Love

This family is definitely one of the strangest on this list — understandable, since the original goal was to breed a freak show. Though we’d have to stay away from Arty (who has flippers instead of hands or feet) and his cult, we sort of want to see what kind of weird power or deformity we’d come out with. Is that weird?

The Family Fang, of The Family Fang

Though Buster and Annie don’t particularly like being the offspring of two ridiculous performance-artist parents, we think a childhood full of planned and videotaped mayhem in public places would be rather fun.

The Incandenzas, of Infinite Jest

The Incandenzas may have their problems — suicide, disfigurement, psychological dissociation, creation of weapons of mass destruction — but they also happen to be a family of famous geniuses whose multifarious issues make them some of the most interesting characters in all of literature.

The Blackwoods, of We Have Always Lived in the Castle

The strange, agoraphobic Blackwoods are down to three — the others mysteriously murdered by arsenic slipped into the sugar bowl — and are hated by their neighbors for their otherness. The neighbors aren’t completely wrong — there is some casual evil there — but there’s also understanding and unconditional familial love that make us sure we’d love to be part of the clan. If we didn’t get poisoned, that is.

House Targaryen, of A Song of Ice and Fire

Just about all the families in George R.R. Martin’s now-hyper-famous series are at least somewhat dysfunctional, but we think we’d take our chances in House Targaryen. Sure, we might turn out insane (about half of them do), but we also might turn out to be a dragon.

The Bigtrees, of Swamplandia!

We think this one’s pretty obvious — a family of alligator wrestlers living off the Florida coast, each one more bizarre than the next? Sign us up, please.

The Baudelaires, of A Series of Unfortunate Events

Though we’d hesitate at the prospect of joining a family of orphans that’s so obviously prone to disaster, we think we’d have fun with the gifted Baudelaires and their many absurd adventures. Plus, we’re good in a scrap.

The Achmetownas, of The Hottest Dishes of the Tartar Cuisine

No one really wants a mother like Rosa — the outrageously self-centered Tartar matriarch with a poison tongue who narrates this novel — until you need her on your side, that is. We’d only like to be a part of this weird, dysfunctional little family if we could maintain a sense of distance and realize how hilarious everything is — otherwise we can see screaming matches in our future.