Perfect by Rachel Joyce
Published: January 14, 2014Publisher: Random HousePages: 400Received: for honest review via TLC Book ToursBuy Now: AmazonByron 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.
Perfect is really two stories from different two different time frames and the chapters alternate between them. I enjoyed both plot lines immensely, but found that I was drawn to the main plot line from 1972 the most. This is when Byron is a child and learns of two seconds that would be added to a day:
“Two seconds are huge. It’s the difference between something happening and something not happening. It’s very dangerous.”
As Byron's story unfolds, I began to realize it was also the story of his mother, Diana. Byron is at an age where he is figuring out who he is and what he likes, while his mother seems to be at a crossroad and is a little lost. These two seconds appear to have changed everything in Byron's life causing complete chaos for him and his mother. Nothing is happening the way it should, life keeps changing and he's not sure he likes it and his mother seems to be losing herself. Diana's moods change from dutiful wife, to fun-time best friend and then wistful and daydreaming lady who yearns for her younger years again. Byron does not know how to handle all of this and blames it on the two seconds. His entire life turns upside down.
Then we come to Jim's story, which forms the alternating chapter narration. Jim is a 50 something man who has been in and out of the psych ward his entire life. He is a creature of habit and cannot stop his repetitive tendencies for anything, until he meets Eileen. For some reason, Eileen seems to help him deal with things a little better and to learn to open up to the world. But it is not completely Eileen who deserves kudos for helping him, someone from his past gives him a little shock which in turn changes his outlook on life.
The only thing I would have liked more of is Diana's back story, her upbringing an where she came from before living a life of privilege. It is alluded to a few times i the story and I assume that is so we can draw our own conclusions about her past, but I felt like I wanted a little more of her life before becoming a wife and mother.
Now I've been reading a lot of reaction to the title of Perfect, and I have to say that I kind of like the title after having read the story. Nobody is perfect, even when you strive to be. Byron's friend describes his mother as perfect at one point in the novel and I think that is an illustration on not judging a book by it's cover, just because something looks so perfect, it doesn't mean that everything about them is as good as can be. People have things in their lives that they don't like, don't trust or just want to change and I think this book is pretty much about all of those things. It's about forgiveness, redemption, love and most of all acceptance.
About the author:
Rachel Joyce is the author of the international bestseller The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. She is also the award-winning writer of more than twenty plays for BBC Radio 4. She started writing after a twenty-year acting career, in which she performed leading roles for the Royal Shakespeare Company and won multiple awards. Rachel Joyce lives with her family on a Gloucestershire farm.