The Kids Are Gonna Ask
By Gretchen Anthony. (Park Row, 416 pages, $14.79.)
Delving into one’s family history is all the rage these days. So are podcasts. “The Kids Are Gonna Ask,” by Twin Cities author Gretchen Anthony, combines the two in a shrewd commentary on our viral culture.
Seventeen-year-old twins Thomas and Savannah McClair live with their bohemian grandmother, Maggie, on Lake of the Isles in Minneapolis. The search for their father, whose identity their late mother had never revealed, grows out of a series of podcasts — the “McClair Dinner Salon,” a project that relies on Thomas’ technical know-how, Savannah’s scriptwriting talent and Maggie’s penchant for inviting strays and oddballs to supper.
Thomas’ offhand on-air comment about the kids’ unknown paternity brings them to the attention of a New York media guru (properly villainous) who goads them into a more sensational approach to finding Dad, including a whirlwind visit to the merciless national morning shows. The hot glare of publicity, helpful as it might seem to their quest, brings them little but angst and recriminations. Guess they should have stuck with 23andMe.
The parallel story of the putative father, a 40-year-old man-child who’s a fundamentally good but aimless guy, skirts cliché. He’s so outside the culture that he still uses a VCR! In any case, his story isn’t as interesting as the McClairs’.
Besides the local color, the book is sprinkled with references (“Mrs. Maisel,” the Parkland shooting) that lend some currency but are receding ever further in the rearview mirror, threatening to date the story. And as often is the case in an adult-penned story, the teenagers’ dialogue is often stilted. But readers will be drawn into their drama and root for them. These kids are gonna be all right.