Saturday, April 2, 2016

Book Review: Perfect

When I saw that Rachel Joyce, author of one of my favorite books from two years ago, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, had another book out, I was thrilled. It must be hard to be a writer whose break-out book hit bestseller lists and reigned in reader's popular favorites. I certainly wouldn't want that pressure, that expectation that everything produced from there on out would be gold. This wasn't gold, but it wasn't bad either. I suppose I ended up just feeling so-so about it. It held my attention. It explored the human psyche. But, it didn't dazzle and take me on a similar journey to the one I experienced with Harold Fry.

Eleven year old Byron Hemmings is an inquisitive boy. It is 1972 and his friend James informs him that they will be adding two seconds to time to make up for adjustments caused by the leap year days. He is blown away by this concept and struggles to understand what that means for the accuracy of time. Then, when something happens, in what he perceives to be the two added seconds, he is sure that his whole life has gone on an alternate trajectory and cannot be turned around. His mother seems oblivious to what has happened and yet it will impact her significantly.

The book, Perfect, has interesting characters (one with OCD, another a mother who is suffocating in a tidy world). It explores interesting ideas: what might happen if a mistake made in the matter of seconds shattered life as you knew it? How does a child's perception of life alter when faced with very adult situations and complicated consequences? Moreover, it resonates with the reader quite well.

I certainly ached alongside Byron as his family's world began to shatter. I was emotionally moved by the story. Yet, it didn't quite live up to the emotional stirring of her previous books. While I don't regret having spent the time reading it, I cannot recommend it wholeheartedly, the way I did with Harold Fry's story. I'm not writing this writer off, but this wasn't quite up to the standards of her other two books.

Furthermore, I wasn't thrilled with the cover art for the library's copy (see above). I much prefer two other ones found on the author's site:

In the end, I guess it just wasn't as "perfect" as I would have liked.

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