Perfect Life: A Novel

Perfect Life: A Novel

2.0 1
by Jessica Shattuck

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“Jessica Shattuck’s engrossing, deceptively ambitious novel explores a wide range of subjects . . . with a shrewd and sympathetic eye.”—Tom PerrottaSee more details below


“Jessica Shattuck’s engrossing, deceptively ambitious novel explores a wide range of subjects . . . with a shrewd and sympathetic eye.”—Tom Perrotta

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Shattuck’s seamless second (after The Hazards of Good Breeding) explores how one woman’s decision to shut the biological father of her child out of her life affects a group of old college pals. Harvard grad Neil Banks isn’t exactly thrilled at having sold out and taken a job that moved him from L.A. to Boston to design the video games he used to review. After his arrival, he happens across Laura, a mutual friend of his and his college sweetheart, Jenny, who got pregnant using Neil’s sperm after her blank-shooting husband couldn’t deliver. As Laura, now unhappily married and the mother of two, and Neil embark on an affair, Neil’s desire to connect with the son he’s never met (and signed away all rights to) grows ever more intense. His chance comes in the form of a sexually voracious rep from Jenny’s pharma company who is working on an antidepressant product-placement deal for a game Neil’s designing. Shattuck does a great job with her characters, and the bizarre situations they find themselves in—Neil particularly—come across as oddly believable. Light humor and breezy prose seal the deal. (Aug.)
Kirkus Reviews
Shattuck returns to the moneyed Massachusetts territory explored in The Hazards of Good Breeding (2003). They became friends at Harvard, and now, 15 years later, three of them still reside near it. Jenny, a hotshot marketing executive at Genron Pharmaceuticals, is building a McMansion in Wellesley. Laura does the stay-at-home mom thing with her two daughters-she hardly ever sees mogul husband Mac-in Cambridge. That's also where Elise, a scientist at a lab owned by Genron, lives with her partner Chrissy and their twin sons. Only Neil has wandered away to lead a mysterious, cynical existence in Los Angeles, and when he wanders back to Boston, he is not particularly welcome. Two years ago Jenny approached Neil to be a sperm donor. Her husband Jeremy was infertile, she explained; smart, creative, handsome and healthy Neil seemed like good donor material, and his disinterest in children suited the arrangement Jenny wanted. No one but Laura, Elise and Jeremy would know that Neil was the biological father; he would have no role in the child's life. But then Neil shows up at the baby's christening with some vague notion of being acknowledged, and his presence throws everyone's comfortable habits into question. Shattuck's best creation is Neil. The gifted 22-year-old with all the right questions, the critical eye, the disdain for conformity, is uncomfortably just the same at 35, when all that brilliance smacks of naive narcissism. Working in Boston for a year developing a video game, he begins his passive-aggressive assault by sleeping with Laura and stalking Jenny's year-old baby Colin. Paternity and belonging are the novel's leitmotifs: As Jenny, Jeremy and Neil grapple with the question of whatconstitutes fatherhood, Elise's relationship falters over Chrissy's insistence that their sons meet all the other children produced by inseminations from their sperm donor, whom she calls the boys' "brothers and sisters."Despite some dips into melodrama, a smart consideration of what it means to acquire a family. Author tour to New York, Boston, San Francisco, Los Angeles
“Each of the four fully delineated characters is unique, and their situations clearly reflect their personalities as Shattuck describes their feelings with great accuracy, reveling in the fact that her characters are well educated and reflective people who demonstrate admirable self-awareness. In all, this is an excellent, resonant novel.”
Entertainment Weekly
Shattuck offers a smart, sad rumination on the pursuit of happiness....With elegant prose, Shattuck manages to make her characters' stories feel both engrossing and utterly real.
Stylish storytelling and sharp social commentary—on issues ranging from adultery to genetic engineering—make Perfect Life both topical and eminently readable.

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Product Details

Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
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