Nothing to See Here is one of the funniest books I’ve read in a long time. The tone is just hilarious. Lillian, the perspective character, is absolutely bonkers and I adore her. She’s tough and kooky and always afraid that she’s going to mess things up, and I just want to be her friend more than anything. This book is short and breezy without being shallow, and it completely transported me into this beyond weird circumstance in the midst of normalcy.
“I wasn’t destined for greatness; I knew this. But I was figuring out how to steal it from someone stupid enough to relax their grip on it.”
Lillian’s life isn’t great. She was raised very poor. As a young teen, she worked her butt off to get a scholarship to a prestigious girl’s boarding school in her town. This is where she meets her best friend in the world, Madison. Madison is gorgeous and filthy rich but is just as much of a weirdo deep down as Lillian. Even after Madison’s dad pays Lillian’s mom off to allow Lillian to be blamed for something Madison did, even after Lillian is expelled for this and loses her shot at getting out of this town and building a better for herself, she still loves Madison. So when Madison, now the wife of a senator, begs Lillian to help her through a weird situation, Lillian can’t say no, even though she’s let herself be beaten down by life and isn’t sure what she could possibly offer her friend.
“From that point on, I guess I sort of realized that my imagination, which made life tolerable, needed to be kept a secret from the rest of the world. But if you keep something hidden away, all tied up, it’s hard to summon it when you really need it.”
Turns out what Madison needs is someone who is fiercely loyal to her and able to keep a secret. Lillian is her girl on both counts. This is how Lillian suddenly finds herself caring for Madison’s senator husband’s twin ten-year-olds from his previous marriage. While she doesn’t see how she’s at all qualified to take care of kids, Lillian agrees to the task. That’s when Madison drops a bomb: these kids spontaneously combust when agitated. It doesn’t harm the kids in any way; the flames don’t even singe their hair. But obviously they’re incredibly destructive and their weirdness needs to be kept under wraps. Lillian decides that she will do whatever it takes to keep these kids safe, and she throws herself into caring for them.
“Maybe raising children was just giving them the things you loved most in the world and hoping that they loved them too.”
The random spontaneous combustion of these kids is the only element of Nothing to See Here that might cause it to be classified as magical realism. Everything else is firmly based in reality. Bessie and Roland, the kids in question, are basically feral after having been raised in isolation by their now dead mother. But Lillian clicks with them immediately. Their relationship is a joy to watch bloom.
“You took care of people by not letting them know how badly you wanted your life to be different.”
While the premise of combustable children is pretty attention-grabbing, what made Nothing to See Here work so well for me was the humor that oozed out of every page. Lillian is quite possibly my favorite narrator of any book ever. This is another novel that was simply fabulous on audio. I felt that Ireland added even more quirkiness to an already crazy character through her narration. Her Southern drawl was insanely thick and served the story incredibly well, and it lended the book an even stronger sense of place.
“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.”
I have nothing negative to say about this book. I’m looking forward to digging into Wilson’s back catalogue, as this was the first of his work I’ve ever read. Nothing to See Here is the best kind of crazy. If you’re looking for something that will make you laugh and remind you that your problems could always be worse, this is the exact right book for you.
You can order this book from: Bookshop.org (Support independent bookstores!) | Amazon UK | Amazon US | Audible | Libro.fm (Another way to support independent bookstores!) | Book Depository (Free shipping)