Dear Kevin Wilson: Thank you for giving me something to laugh at while on lock down in my house. Nothing to See Here offered me hours of escape, into the world of kids who catch on fire and the pliable definitions of parental love and family. It was a life saver for a few hours, and I’m grateful.

This is an adventure into the realm of magical realism. But it’s not a hard drop. All you need to believe is that 10-year old kids can catch on fire and not be harmed. So, that’s not too difficult, right? Right.

The main character, Lillian, met Madison at an elite boarding school. Now they’re in their 30s and living completely different lives. Madison’s husband is a U.S. Senator for Tennessee. Lillian is drifting about, not “living up to her potential,” as they say. So, when Madison needs someone to care for her husband’s twins from an earlier marriage, she reaches out to Lillian.

It’s an illogical choice, since Lillian knows nothing about rearing children. And even less about kids who spontaneously combust. But she’s got good instincts, focusing on treating them like normal kids rather than weirdos. And the kids surprise her in more ways than just their sizzling tendencies.

My conclusions

This was a great book. Not overly long, the audiobook kept me occupied while doing busy housework on quarantine. When the chores were over, I just wanted to keep listening to Wilson’s next chapter.

As a stepdaughter and stepmother, I know that parental love isn’t just biological. Wilson reminded me of how precious it is to love people by choice.

Lillian and Madison have a complex relationship. Madison is so wealthy she barely sees life from Lillian’s point of view. And Lillian’s schoolgirl crush on Madison stands the test of time, making her willing to do almost anything to please her friend. These opposite perspectives give Wilson the opportunity to poke gently at the issues of class and privilege.

More than anything, I loved the way Lillian connects with the twins, Bessie and Roland. She instinctively knows to keep them in the pool as much as possible. And when their fingers look like prunes, she learns the kids are too exhausted to flame up. Lillian is practical, because her life is hard. She just looks at challenges head on and evaluates options. The kids really respond to her warmth (pun intended).

Still, Wilson knows when to pivot from tenderness to literally pulling punches. He never lets the story become maudlin. The prose is one part laugh track, one part parenting manual, and two parts real life. Don’t forget to add a little old-school flame on top.

Pair with Folded Wisdom, a memoir by a daughter about her dad, from Joanna Guest. Another parent-child memoir, with laugh out loud moments, is Preistdaddy by Patricia Lockwood.