Some of the most bizarre family members ever to see print can be found in Lydia Millet's Omnivores (Algonquin/Thomas Allen, 252 pages, $26.95 cloth). This book is definitely not "mainstream", but has the potential to become a minor cult classic, possibly even a David Cronenberg movie.
Estée Kraft is the stalwart heroine, trying to survive the predatory society in which she lives, including her own family gone berserk with consumerism. Millet portrays ours as an omnivorous age; we "eat" everything.
There are three notable "omnivores" in Estée's life. First is her father, an obese, obnoxious, gun-collecting ex-Green Beret, who suffered a head trauma in the Vietnam War and now forces his daughter to perform "scientific" experiments on insects-which he sometimes makes her eat as punishment. Then there's her husband, Pete Magnus, a Los Angeles realtor into whose clutches she's thrown by her father (on her eighteenth birthday, he gives Pete three million dollars to marry her). Pete's only concern is money and how to make more of it. Finally, there's Pete's and Estée's son William, a terrifying toddler who speaks in sound bites learned from commercials and who literally devours everything, including the metal bars of his crib.
Millet's writing ability, combined with her quirky, offbeat sensibility, results in a satire so dark and vicious that "black humour" is too light a term for it.