It’s a risk to name a book Perfect, even if it underscores a major plot point of the story. There are so many ways to abuse the title in a review; so many ways to say the novel is anything less than perfect. Rachel Joyce’s new book is not perfect, but it comes very close.
For one thing, I could not put this book down. I was late to work twice in the few days it took me to read it, and I read it on my kindle, my phone, wherever and whenever I could. It was not a gripping mystery; it was a heartbreaking story of love and loss. The writing was so stunningly beautiful that at times I had to stop and admire each perfectly composed sentence.
I read The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry not too long ago, and did not review it because I felt like I was too late to the table on that one, and everything that could be said about it had already been said, better than I could say it. But I loved it, and so, going into this book, I was prepared to love this one as well. The two books at first seem completely different, though in truth, they tell the same story. They are both tales of an underdog who completes a long journey, and ultimately finds redemption.
I have been criticized for recommending books that are too sad, so I will warn you now; this is a sad story. There is an overwhelming feeling of loss from the very beginning, as you read alternating chapters from the past and the present. You know something bad has happened, you’re just not sure how bad, and how much worse it will get before it’s over. The characters are people at their most vulnerable, and even when I thought, “come on, stop this!” I knew that if I were in the same situation, this is exactly how it would happen. The author Elizabeth Stone said, “Making the decision to have a child - it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” I have a feeling that this is how Rachel Joyce feels about her book. I’m not sure why — maybe because the characters feel so exposed, so completely and utterly vulnerable. So, even though it was heartbreaking at times, I felt lucky to share their journey with them. Read this book, it will be the perfect start to your new year.