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Having loved Rachel Joyce's original novel "The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry", I dove into "Perfect" as soon as it was released. After a decent amount of time listening to the story, I had to admit to myself that I wasn't following the narrative at all - so I started over, right back at the beginning. After several more false starts, I decided to go online and find some reviews; was it just me that was confused? Luckily, there was a review on Amazon from a reader with an early release copy of the book, who mentioned that the chapters of the book alternate between the story of the two boys in 1972 (beginning with both the book's preface "The Addition of Time" and the first chapter "Something Terrible") and the story that takes place in our current year - a story of a man nearing 60,(beginning with Chapter Two, entitled "Jim"). From that point on, the chapters switch regularly, with each narrative getting every other chapter.
With that piece of crucial information, I began the book once again; and from that point on, I was entranced. Much like the author's first book, the story is both beautiful and sad; focusing on the cause and effect that relationships, actions, and experiences in our past have on our future lives.
I found this story very touching and honest. Sharing any more about the plot would be a disservice, so I'll leave it at that.
If you enjoyed "The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry", I believe you'll enjoy this new tale; a very different story, but treated with the same respect and compassion by it's author.
39 of 40 people found this review helpful
A heads up: it took me a long time to get in to this book. If you’re in need of a quick fiction fix, this might not be the place to start. I spent two-thirds of the book grumbling to myself that as intriguing and unsettling as this story is, it just wasn’t living up to The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry for me. But I’m so thankful I stuck with it – Rachel Joyce delivers in spades. It’s not so much that she gives a clever, tidy wrap-up (though there is a twist near the end), but she creates an utterly complex ending that somehow feels completely familiar. How is it that the history of your life moves along in a zig-zaggy, random, and seemingly unremarkable fashion, but then somewhere along the way it feels as if it was pre-destined all along? This instinctual belief is both incredibly universal and totally flawed – and Rachel Joyce captures it all.
She beautifully renders the earnestness with which children approach the issues of adulthood, and the inherent misunderstandings that arise when these two worlds collide. She heartbreakingly depicts the damage that is caused when children aren’t just loved simply and wholeheartedly. I just can’t stop thinking about this book and reflecting on my own childhood in the context of it. And in the final chapters there is a scene of reconciliation that takes place in a suburban café that feels like it maybe happened in the background as Harold Fry and his entourage marched on by. Where Joyce’s first book contains elements of individual triumph, Perfect simmers with anxiety until reluctantly, gratefully finding peace and forgiveness.
Paul Rhys was a solid choice for narrator, and I think it was probably necessary to choose a man to read, but I didn’t always love his female voices, so I’m pulling one star off for this.
23 of 26 people found this review helpful