SCI FICTION, May 12, 2004

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"Family Bed" by Kit Reed

"Family Bed" by Kit Reed is disturbingly repellent and captivating at the same time.  Fittingly, it's like watching one of the popular reality show where "average" people cavort in bizarre, contrived settings for the prurient amusement of millions of viewers.  Along with the fictional television audience, readers, against our more circumspect sensibilities, are drawn to Reed's psychological freak show of a family, the Dermotts.  We are, after all, a nation of television addicts.

The Dermotts all sleep in a communal bed–mother, father, and four siblings. A bit eccentric, perhaps, but harmless, maybe even nurturing, right?  Family bonding, private family time–how can it be bad when parents know exactly where their children are at night, every night? Mother coos into the camera lens: "Bad mothers don't care what happens to their children as long as they're quiet. Good mommies keep their babies in the Family Bed." But Sarah isn't a baby; she's sixteen.  And she has an older brother. Or maybe two. Or three.

In wry deprecation of the current reality show mania, Reed shows how psychological dysfunction can (and undoubtedly has) become popular entertainment for a jaded  audience. One complaint I have about the execution: the dialogue throughout "Family Bed" is punctuated with a preceding dash instead of framed in quotes. Experimental and avant-garde?  Maybe.  Distracting? Definitely.

But, funky punctuation  notwithstanding, "Family Bed" is weird and biting, a darkly chilling read.  Think Stepford Wives meet Carrie's mother.  Guaranteed to make your Nielsen box gurgle and twitch.