Book Review: Perfect by Rachel Joyce

perfect2Title: Perfect
Author: Rachel Joyce
Genre: Contemporary fiction, literary fiction
Publisher: Random House
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: ARC from the publisher for tour with TLC Book Tours
Number of pages: 400
First line: In 1972, two seconds were added to time.

Goodreads blurb: On a foggy spring morning in 1972, twelve-year-old Byron Hemming and his mother are driving to school in the English countryside. On the way, in a life-changing two seconds, an accident occurs. Or does it? Byron is sure it happened, but his mother, sitting right next to him in the car, has no reaction to it. Over the course of the days and weeks that follow, Byron embarks on a journey to discover what really happened-or didn’t-that fateful morning when everything changed. It is a journey that will take him-a loveable and cloistered twelve-year-old boy with a loveable and cloistered twelve-year-old boy’s perspective on life-into the murkier, more difficult realities of the adult world, where adults lie, fathers and mothers fight without words, and even unwilling boys must become men. By the end, Byron will finally reconcile the dueling realities of that summer, a testament to the perseverance of the human spirit and the power of compassion.

I had a very emotional reaction to Perfect, and multiple emotions, at that. First of all, I felt so dreadfully sorry for poor Byron, a young boy placed in an impossible situation. He is carrying the weight of the world, the burdens of his entire family, on his shoulders, and is determined to make everything right – a truly impossible task.

I felt extreme anger at his father. His father was physically absent through most of the book, and yet was still a huge ominous presence, as the reader watches Byron’s mother try to make everything in their home and lives perfect for fear of upsetting her husband. In the meantime, Byron and his sister Lucy are being neglected. Actually, I was angry at most all of the adults in this book, as there were other neighborhood women who could have seen what was going on and intervened, but didn’t.

This is a heavy, hard book – beautifully written, but not a happy book. Even the ending, while giving a glimmer of hope, was bittersweet. Rachel Joyce is an extremely gifted writer, and while I didn’t love Perfect as much as I loved The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, I still highly recommend it.

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13 Responses to Book Review: Perfect by Rachel Joyce

  1. The description of this one sounds sad. I can see you really came to care for Byron. I will have to keep my eye out for this one. It sounds like something I might like given the right mood. Great review, Carrie.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies

      Wendy – It was sad, definitely, but still a book I’m glad I read. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. bermudaonion (Kathy)
    Twitter: bermudaonion

    I didn’t realize this is the same author as Harold Fry. I need to get with it and read these books!

  3. Heather
    Twitter: BookAddictHeath

    I didn’t read this author’s first novel but I’m interested in both. My book club picked Pilgrimage at one point but I was out of town for the meeting so I didn’t read the book. Which would you recommend reading first? Does it matter since they’re not related to one another at all?

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies

      Heather – they aren’t related to one another, so I think the only thing that matters is what kind of book you’re in the mood for. Harold is a bit of a more cheerful book, although it’s not all puppy dogs and roses. Perfect is a lot darker.

  4. AnnH
    Twitter: mordyth

    Beautiful writing and elegant plotting make PERFECT a book to be experienced. It will be on everyone’s best book list for 2014. I know it’s on mine. Fun to see what others think as well!

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies

      AnnH – I’m interested in reading some of the other reviews, since I’ve avoided them so far while I was still reading it.

  5. “beautifully written, but not a happy book” Wow, sounds like this was a powerful read.

    Thanks for being on the tour!

  6. Susan says:

    Glad you reviewed this one since I was curious after reading her first Fry book, which I liked. It sounds like this one is worthwhile. I will get to it sometime. thanks

  7. Pingback: Rachel Joyce, author of Perfect, on tour December 2013/January 2014 | TLC Book Tours