Published by Random House on 2014-01-14
Genres: adult, historical, literary
Source: Book Tour
A spellbinding novel that will resonate with readers of Mark Haddon, Louise Erdrich, and John Irving, Perfect tells the story of a young boy who is thrown into the murky, difficult realities of the adult world with far-reaching consequences.Byron Hemmings wakes to a morning that looks like any other: his school uniform draped over his wooden desk chair, his sister arguing over the breakfast cereal, the click of his mother’s heels as she crosses the kitchen. But when the three of them leave home, driving into a dense summer fog, the morning takes an unmistakable turn. In one terrible moment, something happens, something completely unexpected and at odds with life as Byron understands it. While his mother seems not to have noticed, eleven-year-old Byron understands that from now on nothing can be the same. What happened and who is to blame? Over the days and weeks that follow, Byron’s perfect world is shattered. Unable to trust his parents, he confides in his best friend, James, and together they concoct a plan. . . . As she did in her debut, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Rachel Joyce has imagined bewitching characters who find their ordinary lives unexpectedly thrown into chaos, who learn that there are times when children must become parents to their parents, and who discover that in confronting the hard truths about their pasts, they will forge unexpected relationships that have profound and surprising impacts. Brimming with love, forgiveness, and redemption, Perfect will cement Rachel Joyce’s reputation as one of fiction’s brightest talents.Praise for Perfect “Touching, eccentric . . . Joyce does an inviting job of setting up these mysterious circumstances, and of drawing Byron’s magical closeness with Diana.”—Janet Maslin, The New York Tiimes “Haunting . . . compelling.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune “[Joyce] triumphantly returns with Perfect. . . . As Joyce probes the souls of Diana, Byron and Jim, she reveals—slowly and deliberately, as if peeling back a delicate onion skin—the connection between the two stories, creating a poignant, searching tale.”—O: The Oprah Magazine “Perfect touches on class, mental illness, and the ways a psyche is formed or broken. It has the tenor of a horror film, and yet at the end, in some kind of contortionist trick, the narrative unfolds into an unexpected burst of redemption. [Verdict:] Buy It.”—New York “Joyce’s dark, quiet follow-up to her successful debut, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, could easily become a book club favorite. . . . Perfect is the kind of book that blossoms under thoughtful examination, its slow tendencies redeemed by moments of loveliness and insight. However sad, Joyce’s messages—about the limitations of time and control, the failures of adults and the fears of children, and our responsibility for our own imprisonment and freedom—have a gentle ring of truth to them.”—The Washington Post “There is a poignancy to Joyce’s narrative that makes for her most memorable writing.”—NPR’s All Things ConsideredFrom the Hardcover edition.
Oh, Perfect. I really wanted to love you, but you were just a bit too weird for me. ME! I am the weirdest person there is! Okay, maybe not the weirdest but pretty close. Point is, if you are too weird for me, something is not right here. What? You want to know why I thought you were too weird? I would be happy to share my opinions with you. Take a seat, book.
The first thing I feel I MUST mention is your writing. While I liked it enough and thought it was unique, a lot of your phrasing was weird. Basically, I was repeatedly yanked out of the narrative due to pretentious wording and odd verbiage. Also, the flow was just really odd in places. And you know, that’s one of the things that bothers me the most because I have a super-short attention span and books like you that don’t always flow well really don’t help the situation. Here’s the thing though. Your writing was really beautiful despite all that. I mean, honestly, if I thought it was that bad I would have put it down and read something else, but I stuck it out because I really thought you captured the essence of England well. I thought your imagery was fantastic, and the way you thrashed my mind’s eye left me gasping for air. If only the rest had been there for me.
The other thing that sort of bothered me was your characters, Perfect. I know you are lit-fic so it’s natural for your characters to be eccentric and a bit odd, but no matter now well-developed they were, I just couldn’t connect with them. I felt sorry for them, I enjoyed reading about their lives and troubles, but even Jim, the one I know I was supposed to have sympathy for, well, I just didn’t have much. It’s hard to explain why that was, but maybe it’s because Jim was hiding so much throughout the book. He wouldn’t tell me his story because it was supposed to be the big reveal at the end, which is another thing that annoys many, but I never felt like I really knew him. And then when it came to the big twist, well I pretty much saw it coming. I just hate those types of books where the characters are all hiding things and it is supposed to be this big secret that the reader has to solve. I feel like they are all mocking me. This is not the same as a whodunit. I like solving mysteries, but I did feel like every single one of these characters was surface and hard to get to know. It’s a stylistic thing that I just don’t mesh with.
Your plot, Perfect, was also hard to get into. I just felt the first half of you was running around in circles and going nowhere. The accident happens, and then for a while after that, there is nothing. The plot does not seem to have a focus or an ultimate goal. I do believe you are supposed to be character-focused, or at least you try to be, but when I don’t care for your characters, there isn’t a whole lot for me between your front cover and back. Once you get going, you are good, but I kept hoping Diana would stand up for herself and she never did. That was very frustrating for me to read. I do not believe it is very realistic to have one person be that patient without ever showing their frustration.
Ultimately, there is a lot of good in you, and I think that for the right person, you might be the perfect book. But there was not enough that I personally like for you to be a hit for me. There is no doubt in my mind that your author is incredibly talented, and I do believe I would read a work by her again. But Perfect, you were simply not the type of fiction that I fall for. At best, you were an average book for me. It takes a certain person to find entertainment value in stories of this kind, and I am not that person.