Reviewed by Grant Leishman for Readers' Favorite
Brutally Funny: A Dark Collection of Dysfunctional Family Stories by Lynda West is a clever, witty, and at times bittersweet anthology of short stories focused on her highly dysfunctional family. The Lloyd family was, to all outward appearances, the quintessential middle-class family, but just below the surface was a core of utter chaos and betrayal. Told from the perspective of a young daughter growing into adulthood, the humor is both cutting and sometimes deeply saddening, but always meaningful and pointed. Humor is used to highlight the utter absurdity of trying to make incredibly bad behavior appear to be normal. With a large age gap between the author and her siblings, her observations of this warped familial behavior began at an early age. She witnessed the battles between her mother and father plus those between her parents and her older siblings. As she matured and began to be included in these regular disputes, she marveled at the sheer hatred shown toward her by her sister, her brother’s fragile mental state, and her parents’ constant battles. As well as her immediate family, the stories also include other relatives and their contribution to the endless anarchy.
Brutally Funny by Lynda West is genuinely funny and darkly so. The author uses tragedy and pain exquisitely to sum up the utterly comedic nature of the human condition. Some of the stories, especially the one of the pedophile and racist brother-in-law’s grooming of her, are genuinely awful and disgusting yet the author does a wonderful job of smoothing over the horror of the situation with wit and insight. Many of the situations she encounters within her family will resonate with most readers and this was certainly the case for me, as I found myself frequently nodding and chuckling to myself about the familiarity of the situation she found herself in. Lovely family photos, as well as a stunningly wicked cartoon of her immediate family all add to the enjoyment of these stories. This was a fun read but, more than that, it made me think and compare, as I’m sure it will many other readers. I can highly recommend this read.