Effed Up!: Story of a Family – Russ Woody

(Reviewed by JD Jung)

Mom is proud of her forty-six year old son, Lenny. After all, the music community pays tribute to his band, Pink Lloyd. As you can tell, she doesn’t realize what a tribute band actually is. She also doesn’t realize that Lenny gives her the same CD every year as a present, just repackaged. In spite of the fact that he eats up all of this praise, Lenny still hates her and seems to hate life itself.

However, this novel is written through the eyes of his brother, thirty-five year old insurance underwriter, Robert. Whatever Robert does, it doesn’t ever seem to be good enough for mom. In fact, she accuses him of being jealous of Lenny. Robert doesn’t understand Lenny who has “embraced losing”. He also doesn’t understand his older sister, a born-again Christian who on the surface has the perfect family. What he does know is that he is the one who gets all of the phone calls from mom and dad when they need help or something has gone wrong.

Mom has always been manipulative and somewhat crazy and this has led to Robert’s negative and sarcastic attitude towards women. So if you assume that he has never been in a happy, healthy relationship, you are right. Is there any hope for him to break away from all of this mess? Will he ever be able to get close to anyone?

Effed Up is a quick, hilarious read about an extremely dysfunctional family who, like all families, holds many secrets. However the Nirth family is not typical. While readers may relate to certain aspects of the book on a more subdued level, author Russ Woody takes it up several notches to the extreme—to the point of exaggeration. In fact I found the story and the family’s anger quite unnerving at times, which offset the sarcastic humor.

In spite of that, I appreciate how Effed Up takes up issues such as hypocrisy, duty to others and asks us to reevaluate the definition of family.

Most of all, it has exactly what I’ve been craving: a good hysterical laugh. And it has just enough of what I enjoy in humor: edge and irreverence. Nothing is sacred, and it may make you uncomfortable at times.

Woody admits that the story is “…loosely (very loosely) based on my family, decidedly adult, but hopefully it says something worthwhile.”

And, yes, Effed Up!: Story of a Family accomplishes that.

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