Looking for stories about characters in emotionally toxic familes (spoilers likely)

To explain:

I don’t mean stories like The Prince of Tides, at least not as it’s written. Henry Wingo (father to Tom, the narrator), goes way past being emotionally & verbally abusive; the best thing you can say about his child-rearing is that he neither rapes nor murders his children. But in a just world he would have spent the 50s in jail for being an abusive bastard.

I’m not *necessarily *looking for stories with parents who are deliberately emotionally or verbally abusive, though those would certainly qualify. But any story in which the emotional dynamic of the family is profoundly unhealthy to the child character. For example: Lilah Wingo from the aforementioned Tides plays her children off one another in service of her own needs, fears, and pathologies. If you can imagine Tides with that element but without Tom, Savannah, and Luke spending their childhood being beaten, you know what I mean.

Any thoughts?

The Royal Tannenbaums.

On edit: Might not be what you want, since it mostly deals how their upbringing caused them to turn into such damaged adults, rather then their childhood itself.

I blame myself for not specifying “not funny” and “literary rather than cinematic as I have decided to indulge my irrational and sporadic hatred of all movies today.”

Not a story, but if you are looking to delve into the dynamics of verbal and emotional abuse - “You Can’t Say that to Me”

also White Oleander, which was actually a book before it was a movie . . .

Which is … ?

(I left my omniscience in my other pants.)

I am looking for novels or short stories, though.

White Oleander should fit the bill.
A case could be made that the mother of the main character in A Confederacy of Dunces made him such a horrible loser.
The Corrections works, too.

A lot of John Irving fits this. I most recently read “Until I Find You” which is a doozy.

Running With Scissors, a memoir about a kid going moving (against his will) from a massively dysfunctional biological family, to an even more dysfunctional adoptive family. While parts of it are humourous, the story is very serious at its’ core. Skip the movie, which is poorly directed and leaden. The book is great though.

Lovelock by Orson Scott Card and Kathryn Kidd. Not just families, and not just toxic - EVERYONE in the book is appalling, IMNSHO. I’m sorry I read the book - and I came upon it under the most pleasant circumstances. If there’s a sequel I shall not read it.

A lot of people on Amazon liked it. I disagree. (where’s the barfy smiley when you need it?)

Ender’s Game qualifies under the OP also, but it’s a very good book IMO.

Wow, I really liked the book - it was a really neat take on the idea. I’ve been waiting FOREVER for the sequel - too bad it will probably never be written.

Sadly, the first thing that popped into my head when I saw the subject line was The Prince of Tides.

Damn. Thought I could pimp my (step) brother’s movie for a second there. Let me know if you change your mind. :wink:

There’s a toxic family atmosphere in Ordinary People, but no abuse or violence that I recall.

My Life As a Dog
Igby Goes Down
Garden State

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof? Though it’s mainly the brother/sister-in-law who are just plain toxic. But the parents (Big Daddy and Big Mama) have a pretty bad relationship. It would be a bad family to live in. And speaking of Tennessee Williams, how about the Glass Menagerie?

What about the first *Harry Potter *book? I’d say the Dursleys were about as emotionally toxic as it’s possible to be in a kids’ book.

I’m in the midst of Stephen King’s Lisey’s Story. The story of Scott’s family is one of pretty severe toxicity. But it, too, goes way past emotionally and verbally abusive.

Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells. Three generations and several families worth of emotional toxicity and dysfunction.

<shudder> If you want dysfunctional southern families, you need either *Night of the Iguana *or *Barn Burning *by William Faulkner.

eta: Night of the Iguana is by Tennessee Williams, not Faulkner

Suddenly, Last Summer, also by Williams, also has a heaping helping of family dysfunction.

A few years ago, I actually read just about Tennessee Williams’ entire body of work, and I’m not sure he wrote anything that didn’t have a dysfunctional family angle.