Besides, the big things in life do not present themselves as such. They come in the quiet, ordinary moments – a phone call, a letter – they come when we are not looking, without clues, without warning, and that is why they floor us. And it can take a lifetime, a life of many years, to accept the incongruity of things; that a small moment can sit side by side with a big one, and become part of the same. - from Perfect –
Byron Hemmings is an eleven year old boy whose life, on the surface, looks perfect. And then one day as he and his sister and mother are driving through a summer fog, something happens. Something that changes everything. And it appears his mother is unaware of what has happened, and only Byron can make it all okay again. He consults his best friend, James, and together they work out a plan.
Rachel Joyce revisits the themes of loss, grief and redemption which she explored in her amazing debut The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. In many ways, the two books are similar – they both are peopled with ordinary characters, there is a surprising turn of events, and the characters must confront their pasts in order to move forward into their futures. But although there are deep parallels between the novels, there are also marked differences. In Perfect, the protagonist is a child who is burdened with hard truths that no child should have to be burdened with – and it is perhaps this innocence in Joyce’s primary character which adds to the sadness within its pages.
Rachel Joyce has a knack for taking the ordinary and twisting it into the extraordinary. Her prose is rich and insightful, her characters surprisingly complex beneath their veneer of simplicity. Byron is a vulnerable and naive child who yearns to fix the cracks in his family. His mother is a bit clueless, fumbling in her role as mother, trying desperately to fit in a marriage which is stifling and cold. Byron’s father is largely absent – a man who spends most days far from his children and wife, and yet expects to come home to perfection.
There is a parallel story in Perfect, one which gives the reader a glimpse into the future of one of the characters and alternates chapters with the summer of Byron’s eleventh year. In a prologue, Joyce hints about the fate of the character whose story takes place in the future – but it is not clear until the end what will happen.
It was all because of a small slip in time, the whole story. The repercussions were felt for years and years. Of the two boys, James and Byron, only one kept on course. – from Perfect -
I was eager to read this novel because I adored The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry (read my review). Joyce did not disappoint me, although I didn’t love Perfect quite as much as her debut novel. Readers who enjoy British literary fiction, will want to read Joyce’s sophomore effort.
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. Learn more about Joyce and her work by visiting the author’s website.