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Perfect Little World

Perfect Little World

5.0 1
by Kevin Wilson

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“Wilson’s ambition alone is exciting. . . . [His] writing has a Houdini-like perfection, wherein no matter how grim the variables, each lovely sentence manages to escape with all its parts intact.” —Boston Globe

When Isabelle Poole meets Dr. Preston Grind, she’s fresh out of high school, pregnant with her


“Wilson’s ambition alone is exciting. . . . [His] writing has a Houdini-like perfection, wherein no matter how grim the variables, each lovely sentence manages to escape with all its parts intact.” —Boston Globe

When Isabelle Poole meets Dr. Preston Grind, she’s fresh out of high school, pregnant with her art teacher's baby, and totally on her own. Izzy knows she can be a good mother but without any money or relatives to help, she’s left searching.

Dr. Grind, an awkwardly charming child psychologist, has spent his life studying family, even after tragedy struck his own.  Now, with the help of an eccentric billionaire, he has the chance to create a “perfect little world”—to study what would happen when ten children are raised collectively, without knowing who their biological parents are.  He calls it The Infinite Family Project and he wants Izzy and her son to join.

This attempt at a utopian ideal starts off promising, but soon the gentle equilibrium among the families disintegrates: unspoken resentments between the couples begin to fester; the project's funding becomes tenuous; and Izzy’s growing feelings for Dr. Grind make her question her participation in this strange experiment in the first place.

Written with the same compassion and charm that won over legions of readers with The Family Fang, Kevin Wilson shows us with grace and humor that the best families are the ones we make for ourselves.

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - John Irving
Kevin Wilson…knows how to construct a story…Like Vonnegut, like Atwood, Wilson is up to serious business—like them, he's also very funny…[Perfect Little World is] a novel you keep reading for old-fashioned reasons—because it's a good story, and you need to know what happens. But you also keep reading because you want to know what a good family is. Everyone wants to know that.
Publishers Weekly
The author of The Family Fang invents another unusual family structure for his sweet and thoroughly satisfying second novel. When bright high school senior Izzy Poole, whose mother has died and whose alcoholic father ignores her, discovers that she is pregnant by the art teacher at her Tennessee school, her choices are limited, especially after the teacher commits suicide. So when she is approached by idealistic child psychologist Dr. Preston Grind to join an experiment in communal child raising funded by the billionaire heiress to a retail store fortune, she somewhat reluctantly takes up the offer. The idea is that Izzy and nine other couples, all pregnant at the same time, will raise their kids in common in the Infinite Family Project for 10 years, to see if that situation aids the children’s emotional and intellectual development. The children thrive; the adults, not so much. Wilson keeps his eye on the grown-ups, particularly Izzy and Preston, as rifts begin to form in the carefully planned and maintained structure. Wilson grounds his premise in credible human motivations and behavior, resulting in a memorable cast of characters. He uses his intriguing premise to explore the meaning of family and the limits of rational decision making. Agent: Julie Barer, the Book Group. (Jan.)
Kevin Wilson's acclaimed first novel
Praise for The Family Fang
Fresh Air NPR
“It’s such a minty fresh delight to open up The Family Fang, and feel the revitalizing blast of original thought; robust invention. . . . Wilson’s inventive genius never stops. . . . [It] will linger in your mind long after.”
Boston Globe
“Wilson’s ambition alone is exciting. . . . [His] writing has a Houdinilike perfection, wherein no matter how grim the variables, each lovely sentence manages to escape with all its parts intact.”
“Kevin Wilson expertly navigates between pathos and black comedy while negotiating a smart debate about the human cost of sacrificing all for one’s art. Fang has bite but is also incredibly fun.”
“Wilson writes stylishly, with a clear eye for family dysfunction and the absurdity of the contemporary art world, but his real skill is technical, building up a slow-drip mystery in which everyone is suspected of high crimes or high art until the very end.”
Wall Street Journal
“Inventive and hilarious. This is complex psychological ground. . . . Wilson navigates it with a calm experience.”
Library Journal
Dr. Preston Grind, a wunderkind child psychologist, himself the product of a highly questionable "friction method" of parenting developed by his own psychologist parents, sets up an experimental family community in the woods of Tennessee with the financial assistance of a kindhearted billionaire widow. Housing nine young couples and one single mother (19-year-old Izzy), this collective parenting study assigns all of the adults equal responsibility for each of the kids, who don't live with their own parents (or even know their actual identity) until the age of five. It seems unbelievable that Dr. Grind and the team of psychologists he hires to organize, run, and study the community couldn't have foreseen the obvious complications of this setup, sexual indiscretions and marital infidelities chief among them. Wilson (The Family Fang) presents this world through the eyes of Izzy and Dr. Grind, both smart and sensitive individuals damaged by painful upbringings who learn to overcome them and connect. VERDICT It takes a village, or in this case a well-meaning, utopian parenting study, to create the ingredients for this almost farcical yet moving novel about love, parenting, and the families we create for ourselves. [See Prepub Alert, 8/1/16.]—Lauren Gilbert, Sachem P.L., Holbrook, NY
Kirkus Reviews
★ 2016-10-26
That infamous village that's needed to raise a child comes to fruition when a brilliant researcher creates a communal parenting experiment.This is another bittersweet story about messed-up families from the talented Wilson (The Family Fang, 2011, etc.) but one in which the author stays a bit more grounded, keeping an atmosphere of emotional authenticity that rings true. Wilson's muse is Izzy Poole, a just-graduated high schooler with a particular talent for barbecuing meat, who finds herself in dire straits. She's pregnant with her emotionally disturbed art teacher's baby and estranged from her father. After the art teacher commits suicide, Izzy is confronted with a very odd proposal from a researcher with an agenda. At the behest of a retail mogul, Dr. Preston Grind is determined to create a model in which 10 children are raised by a commune of parents, with no child knowing who their biological parents are. We quickly learn that the doctor is actually a hot mess, raised by two famous child psychologists who subjected their child to constant and unexpected stress throughout his upbringing. Grind may have inherited their brilliance but he's also a cutter with borderline PTSD. Torn between the experiment and raising her son, Cap, alone, Izzy decides to go along with Grind's complex scheme. "She would make it work," Wilson writes. "Izzy would find tiny ways to make herself essential, to succeed when it seemed so unlikely. Ten years, that's what she had. She would mine every essential element out of these ten years and she would be transformed." The second half of the novel checks in on this "Infinite Family Project" every year or two, as Wilson delves into the drama and tensions inherent in this strange aquarium. Relationships begin to splinter, even as Izzy becomes fundamentally reliant on the group. "We're a family," Grind says, near the end. "An imperfect one." A moving and sincere reflection on what it truly means to become a family.
“Persistently compassionate. . . . Wilson’s best moments are funny and earnest. . . . [His] crisp language and smart plotting make Perfect Little World immensely likable and absolutely enjoyable.”
Washington Post
“Charming. . . . Wilson pulls off his sweet-and-tart tone. . . . The novel delights in the project’s Willy Wonkaesque sense of antic chaos.”
Houston Chronicle
“Family is far more than a biological bond; that’s not a groundbreaking idea. But Wilson has found a lovely new way of telling readers something they know by heart.”
“The sheer energy of imagination in Wilson’s work makes other writers of realistic fiction look lazy. . . . The novel’s grand finale . . . reminds us that not everything unpredictable is painful or bad, and that conventional arrangements have no monopoly on the profound connections that make family.”
Knoxville News-Sentinel
“The compensation is a greater richness in the characters, and a refreshingly un-ironic attitude toward love
“Wild. . . . [A] provocative read.”
Entertainment Weekly
“Quirky. . . . Wilson’s Perfect Little World finds its bliss in the vast disconnect between people’s best intentions and where they land.”
Starred Review Booklist
“Stellar. . . . Compelling. . . . Realer and wiser and sadder and eventually reassuring about human nature than dozens of other novels.”
John Irving
“A good story, and even better storytelling.”
“Delicious. . . . Wilson is such an inventive and witty writer. . . . [His] ‘perfect little world’ of a novel pretty much lives up to its title.”
Deep South Magazine
“Wilson does an incredible job of telling a compelling story while addressing important social issues. . . . Thought-provoking.
“In light and lively prose that practically tap dances on the page, Wilson shrewdly probes the intricate tensions and machinations that lie at the core of this eccentric family unit. . . . A provocative and uplifting read.”

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
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Product dimensions:
6.30(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.90(d)

Meet the Author

Kevin Wilson is the author of The New York Times bestseller The Family Fang, named a best book of the year by Time, People, Salon, and Esquire. His story collection, Tunneling to the Center of the Earth, received an Alex Award from the American Library Association as well as the Shirley Jackson Award. He has received fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, and the KHN Center for the Arts. He teaches fiction at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, where he lives with his wife and two sons.

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Perfect Little World: A Novel 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous 18 days ago