NOTHING TO SEE HERE by Kevin Wilson

From the Jacket

Lillian and Madison were unlikely roommates and yet inseparable friends at their elite boarding school.  But then Lillian had to leave the school unexpectedly in the wake of a scandal and they’ve barely spoken since.  Until now, when Lillian gets a letter from Madison pleading for her help.  Madison’s twin stepkids are moving in with her family and she wants Lillian to be their caretaker.  However, there’s a catch: the twins spontaneously combust when they get agitated, flames igniting from their skin in a startling but beautiful way.  Lillian is convinced Madison is pulling her leg, but it’s the truth.

Thinking of her dead-end life at home, the life that has consistently disappointed her, Lillian figures she has nothing to lose.  Over the course of one humid, demanding summer, Lillian and the twins learn to trust each other—and stay cool—while also staying out of the way of Madison’s buttoned-up politician husband.  Surprised by her own ingenuity yet unused to the intense feelings of protectiveness she feels for them, Lillian ultimately begins to accept that she needs these strange children as much as they need her—urgently and fiercely.  Couldn’t this be the start of the amazing life she’d always hoped for?

My Thoughts

Who knew a book in which angry children literally catch on fire could have so much to say about politics?!  Kevin Wilson’s latest novel, NOTHING TO SEE HERE, was an extremely pleasant surprise.

NOTHING TO SEE HERE presents us with twin children, Roland and Bessie, who “spontaneously combust” when they get upset or agitated.  After their mother passes away unexpectedly, the twins are sent to live with their father, a career politician and presidential hopeful who has since remarried and had another child.  While his new wife Madison lives in the family mansion raising her own son, Madison’s high school best friend Lillian takes care of the twins in the flame-retardant guesthouse (formerly the slave quarters).

“I had to believe that these children, who could not be burned, who were immune to hellfire for crying out loud, were simply tougher than most people.  If their bodies were invulnerable to fire, what was inside them?”

Through the complicated relationships of step-parenthood and ex-best friend, Wilson is able to say a lot on family dynamics, parental love, politics, anger, acceptance, insecurity, the importance of keeping up public appearances… the list goes on.  What I most enjoyed about NOTHING TO SEE HERE is the heavy focus on crooked politicians and how they work so hard to hide their personal (read: embarrassing) lives from the public.  I also really enjoyed getting into the parenthood argument behind the novel; though Lillian is not the twins’ mother, grandmother, or even step-mother, she shares a special understanding and a special connection with Roland and Bessie that goes beyond family ties.

“A lot of times when I think I’m being self-sufficient, I’m really just learning to live without the things that I need.”

It was easy for me to devour NOTHING TO SEE HERE: a short, weird little book full of Wilson’s wit and thought-provoking social commentary.

Further Reading

“In Kevin Wilson’s New Novel, Rageaholic Twins Spontaneously Combust” by Taffy Brodesser-Akner, The New York Times Book Review
“The Humanity of Being Freakish” by Bradley Sides, The Millions

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