Tuesday, June 3, 2014


Rachel Joyce
4 / 5

Published 2013

First Sentence
"In 1972, two seconds were added to time."
Publisher's Description:
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.

Dear Reader,

Boy, am I behind on my reviews!  Part of that I blame on BEA, but I can't really be mad at such an amazing experience (plus, how does one express anger at an experience?), so I'll just do my best to catch up quickly!

This book took me AGES to get through, which does not mean it was terrible.  It just means that *I* am terrible - at reading ebooks!  It honestly took me forever because I would only rarely pick up my Kindle (in any form) to read a few pages before being called away to other obligations.  For some reason, I find it much easier to get caught up in a physical book, still!

In any case, Rachel Joyce is a wonderful writer.  This story had me intrigued from the start, as it is something I myself would speculate on.  What WOULD happen if two seconds were added to the clock?  Would everything be thrown off, much like the effect of flapping butterfly wings?  That is what Joyce argues, and she splendidly details how these minute two seconds could diverge and be experienced by two people very differently indeed.  While time itself doesn't fall apart, we do see lives slowly begin to do so in response.  Byron Hemmings experiences an accident which is his mother's fault, but she is strangely unaware of the incident.  Despite this, Byron soon convinces Diana of the truth, and the two begin to develop an unlikely relationship with the family who was affected, a family who is poor and trashy in striking contrast to the wealthy and reserved Hemmingses.  Life begins to turn upside-down for Byron's family and their new "friends," Beverley and Jeanie.  The Guardian review put it so well: "Guilty, rich and lonely, Diana showers Beverley and daughter Jeanie with gifts, and hosts afternoons during which the two women paint each other's nails and exchange confidences.  But Beverley is envious and as their intimacy grows, so does the risk."  That really is the crux of the book, and through this creeping wariness, you begin to understand how the two alternating voices (that of young Byron and an older, mysterious man named "Jim") are related.  

Jim is a troubled man who has lost most of himself to years of electroshock therapy in a mental institution.  He is a loner and full of quirks, but the reader watches as he begins to interact more with the outside world, and then open up to his new friends.  Once the connection between the two main characters is established, the reader may still be thrown for a loop by the ending of the book!  I was smugly certain I had it all figured out, but Joyce easily reminded me of why we shouldn't ever make assumptions.

All in all, beautiful writing and a very interesting story.  I know that if I had been reading this as a book or audiobook, I would certainly have raced through it.  I look forward to reading other works by this author.


P.S. Some notable favorite examples of the gorgeous imagery Joyce evokes: "...Beneath a clear sky that was upholstered with stars" and "A flock of gulls flew east, rising and falling, as if they might clean the sky with their wings."

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