I thought it was an analogy at first. Perhaps Alan got his propensity to have a spotless home from his mother, who was house-proud to the point of distance. She couldn't nurture her children, because she was too busy picking up after them. She did so much laundry that she might as well be a washing machine.
No. She actually was a washing machine.
Or maybe his father was so huge and didn't seem to even see his children, that he appeared as a mountain to a small boy. And his brothers included the introverted one (an island), the one who always knew where to track him down (as if he was psychic) and the spiteful kid (a sociopath).
But no. They were what they were and that was fabulous.
Alan survived a childhood where he had to constantly make up stories to his teachers to cover up the fact that his parents were never seen. If they'd just looked out of the window, they would have spotted his father right there filling the horizon.
As a toddler, Alan had to learn how to feed and clothe the first of his younger brothers. By the time he hit adolescence, he was also having to save their lives from the murderous intent of Davey, or Dennis, Dale, Dickens, Dick or any other name beginning with 'D'. They named themselves according to the alphabet.
I couldn't get enough of this family. I sat rapt reading the words and just lost in that mountain cave. If the entire book had been about them, I'd have lapped up every word and still demanded more.
I found myself crying for the Russian dolls, and laying a hand on my own washing machine on the way past it. They were more real than many of the 'ordinary' denizens of Alan's world.