Perfect: A Novel

Perfect: A Novel

3.3 21
by Rachel Joyce
     
 

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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 deskSee more details below

Overview

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 Considered


From the Hardcover edition.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
★ 12/01/2013
England. 1972. Best friends Byron and James, both 11 years old, worry about the two seconds added to time because it is a leap year. While driving on a foggy morning, just as Byron is telling her about the two seconds, his mother, Diana, hits a little girl on a bicycle. The cascade of disasters quietly unleashed by the accident, which Byron blames on the added time, build to an almost unbearable tension, with the situation aggravated by Diana's suffocatingly controlling husband and her attempts to make things right with the little girl's mother. England. 2012. Jim, a former mental patient now in his early fifties, is living in his van while working at a restaurant. Nearly incapacitated by the relentlessly overwhelming rituals of his obsessive-compulsive disorder and a terrible stutter, he is befriended by the woman who accidentally runs over his foot with her car. VERDICT In alternating chapters, these two stories set 40 years apart frame Joyce's exquisitely played novel of tragedy and mental illness and the kind of wrenching courage unique to those who suffer from the latter and yet battle to overcome it. As in her brilliant debut, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Joyce stuns with her beautifully realized characters and the unexpected convergence of her two tales. [See Prepub Alert, 7/15/13.]—Beth Andersen, Ann Arbor Dist. Lib., MI
Publishers Weekly
09/16/2013
An 11-year-old boy makes an error that brings tragedy to several lives, including his own, in Joyce’s intriguing and suspenseful novel. One summer day in a small English village in 1972, Byron Hemmings’s mother, Diana, is driving him and his younger sister to school when their Jaguar hits a little girl on a red bicycle. Diana drives on, unaware, with only Byron having seen the accident. Byron doesn’t know whether or not the girl was killed, however, and concocts a plan called “Operation Perfect” to shield his mother from what happened. Previously, she has always presented the picture of domestic perfection in trying to please her martinet banker husband, Seymour, and overcome her lower-class origins. After Byron decides to tell her the truth about the accident, she feverishly attempts to make amends by befriending the injured girl’s mother, but her “perfect” facade begins to splinter. Joyce sometimes strains credibility in describing Diana’s psychological deterioration, but the novel’s fast pacing keeps things tense. Meanwhile, in alternate chapters, Jim, a psychologically fragile man in his 50s, endures a menial cafe job. Joyce, showing the same talent for adroit plot development seen in the bestselling The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, brings both narrative strands together in a shocking, redemptive (albeit weepily sentimental) denouement. The novel is already a bestseller in England. (Jan.)
From the Publisher
Praise for Rachel Joyce
 
Perfect
 
Perfect is a poignant and powerful book, rich with empathy and charged with beautiful, atmospheric writing.”—Tana French,  author of In the Woods and Broken Harbor
 
“[Rachel] Joyce, showing the same talent for adroit plot development seen in the bestselling The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, brings both narrative strands together in a shocking, redemptive denouement.”—Publishers Weekly
 
“[Perfect’s] unputdownable factor . . . lies in its exploration of so many multilayered emotions. There is the unbreakable bond between mother and son, the fear of not belonging . . . and how love can offer redemption.”—London Evening Standard
 
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry
 
“[Rachel Joyce] has a lovely sense of the possibilities of redemption. . . . She’s cleared space where miracles are still possible.”—Ron Charles, The Washington Post
 
“Joyce’s beguiling debut is [a] modest-seeming story of ‘ordinary’ English lives that enthralls and moves you as it unfolds.”People (four stars)
 
“[A] gorgeously poignant novel of hope and transformation.”—O: The Oprah Magazine
 
“A gentle adventure with an emotional wallop. It’s a smart, feel-good story. . . . I can’t think of a better recommendation for summer reading. And take your time, just as Harold does.”—Bob Minzesheimer, USA Today

Kirkus Reviews
2013-10-05
The time is out of joint, as the follow-up to a popular novelistic debut brings a slightly darker edge to its fablelike whimsy. Having earned a best-selling readership in both the U.S. and her native Britain with The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry (2012), Joyce returns with an even less likely but more ambitious piece of fictional fancy. The protagonist is 11-year-old Byron, a reflective and innocent schoolboy who becomes overly concerned when his best friend, James, tells him that two seconds will be added to this leap year to somehow even things out. After his mother assures him that "[w]hen it happens you won't notice. Two seconds are nothing," Byron responds, "That's what nobody realizes. Two seconds are huge. It's the difference between something happening and something not happening." And with the addition of those two seconds--or not--something happens--or not. And whether or not something happens, everything changes. A veteran of the stage and a radio playwright before turning to fiction, Joyce specializes in the sort of insights that some find charming, others cloying and a style that could sometimes pass for fairy tale, other times for Young Adult (though those readers wouldn't have much patience for her plotting). The novel alternates between chapters that follow what happens to Byron, his mother and their family (which the reader quickly realizes is more dysfunctional than Byron does) and ones that concern an adult sufferer of obsessive-compulsive disorder who resorts to menial labor when the British mental health system fails him. "No one knows how to be normal, Jim," a social worker tells him. "We're all just trying to do our best." The two plot lines must inevitably intersect, but the manner in which they do will likely surprise even the most intuitive reader. Many of those who loved the author's first novel should at least like her second.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780679645122
Publisher:
Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
01/14/2014
Sold by:
Random House
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
416
Sales rank:
67,194
File size:
1 MB

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