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.
©2013 Rachel Joyce (P)2013 Random House Audio
I rate as follows: 5 Stars = Loved it. 4 Stars = Really liked it. 3 Stars = Liked it. 2 Stars = Didn't like it. 1 Star = Hated it.
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.
As an Audible Editor I listen for a living! British classics, YA novels, speculative fiction, and anything quirky, fascinating, or heart-wrenching.
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.
Being that this book is narrated by one of my favorite actors, naturally I had to download it. As it turned out, the story itself strangely paralleled my own:The gradual destruction of alcoholism, the death of a parent, losing one's self in grief, and personal growth were all very prominent themes.I don't normally like sad books, but the tears were rather cathartic, and Paul's delivery was so genuine and passionate! So much drama! It was almost too much for me to take in! But I persevered, to discover a beautiful and uplifting conclusion.
Just when I thought there was no hope for the main character, everything changed! It was a plot twist that I was not expecting!
Yes I have. Paul Rhys is one of the most underrated actors. Having enjoyed a great deal of his film and television work, I was thrilled to discover that he also had a few voice overs in his resume.I mainly downloaded this book just to hear his quivering Welsh lilt, but the depth of his narration was quite gratifying.He truly "became" each character!
'Perfect' is the Perfect title for this book, on many levels.
My only disappointment was that this appears to be the only novel that Paul Rhys has voiced! Though his radio plays are fun too.
I enjoyed The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by the same author and enjoyed this one even more. It is a story that starts small and then keeps moving, gathering strength as it goes along, until the very nice ending. There are little treats all along, like a character who refers to items by their brand names to make them seem special and separate from the other items in that category. The characters are very likable, even the antagonist. The narrator has a delightful British accent and reads it as if he is telling a story. I was sorry for it to end, and I wish Rachel Joyce had another book I could read.
It took me months and months to finish this book. I stayed it last fall, but my father in law's health went south and he ended up moving in with us and then passing away in January. Because of everything that went on, my anxiety levels would shoot through the roof when I tried to listen to this book. So I put it away for a long while. However, I'm very glad I came back and finished it. She's a wonderful author and tells wonderfully human tales. The narrator did a fantastic job as well.
This is my second Joyce listen. While I like her style and find her stories interesting, Perfect was sometimes difficult to listen to because I could see the train wreck coming. But I was compelled to keep listening - I found I HAD to. I like that she does have a resolution at the end - thankfully. After a break from her, I will listen to another of her books. Cannot say enough about the narrator - outstanding. Over the top!
Rating scale: 5=Loved it, 4=Liked it, 3=Ok, 2=Disappointed, 1=Hated it. I look for well developed characters, compelling stories.
What a mix of reactions I had to this book – annoyance, anxiety, sadness and relief - some multiple times and not necessarily in that order. I have no quarrel with the writing, which was very good, resulting in the mixed emotions. Foreseeing consequences of actions that may happen in a matter of seconds is impossible, and dealing with those consequences can be hard, especially if you feel compelled to be “perfect” either for appearances to others or because something inside you drives you to that need for perfection. It took a very long time for me to develop any empathy for the central family with the cold distant father, fragile insecure mother, crabby little sister, and most importantly the anxious young boy trying to hold everybody together. Sometimes I wanted to go through my headphones and shout at certain characters to “snap out of it!!” So I was unprepared and shocked to find myself in tears towards the end of the story when something occurred that was not so much unexpected as it was emotionally overwhelming in its impact.
Thank goodness for several previous reviews encouraging perseverance to get to the end where the story reaches the conclusion that justified the journey. I offer that same advice – hang in there even when you don’t think you can take it any longer. However, when it comes to giving an overall rating, as satisfied as I was with the ending, getting to that point was often so difficult that I have to take off one star for those prolonged periods of discomfort. The reading by Paul Rhys was excellent and did help to keep me going.
Rachel Joyce proves herself a word master and creative writer in this novel. She continues exploring the obsessions people harbor, yet this is very different from Harold Fry. That is what makes it so intriguing. There are two parallel stories which can be a little confusing if you aren't paying attention. The stories meld together at the end in a surprising way. The narrator is spot on with his different voices enlivening the story.
I had read Joyce's debut novel and wanted to explore more of her work with Perfect. Reading it was an evocative and emotional journey. The characters and story were rich with detail. Paul Rhys had just the right tone for this piece. I was so impressed with everything about this book and it will stick with me for a long time.
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