Thursday, December 19, 2013
Perfect by Rachel Joyce
Published January 2014 by Random House
Source: my copy courtesy of the publisher and TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review
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. . . .
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry was one of the surprise hits of 2012, charming and intimate, and thoughtful. With Perfect Rachel Joyce again brings her readers an intimate, thoughtful story but Perfect is more sad than charming and there is a much greater sense of tension underlying the story.
Joyce moves her story back and forth in time between the story of Byron, his mother and friend James and the story of Jim, an adult with severe mental illness thrown out of the institution he has called home for most of forty years when the government shuts it down. Both stories are full of interesting characters but it was somewhat difficult to become attached to many of them because they are hiding so much throughout the book some of which is never fully revealed. That may be intentional - we never truly do know everything about the people we know. I sometimes wanted to shake Diana, Byron and James who continued to misread situations and do the wrong thing but, again, this is probably much more realistic and certainly was integral to the story line.
Joyce's writing style clearly stakes her books in the England, full of descriptions of the land and mannerisms of speech that are unique to the area. She can get a bit wordy and I sometimes had to go back and reread passages because of the phrasing but, overall, I enjoy Joyce's writing, her ability to create characters who are at once interesting and common.
Perfect is a book that will make readers think - about the secrets we keep, about trying to fit in, about hidden motivations, about mental illness. This would make a good book for book club discussions. And any book that can make me think is a winner in my book. For more opinions about Perfect, check out the full TLC Book Tour.
Thanks to the ladies at TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour!