Published by Random House on Jan. 14, 2014
Source: Publisher, TLC Book Tours
On a sticky summer day in 1972, two seconds were added to time. The day that the seconds were added began like any other, with Byron Hemmings getting ready for school. However, when his mother Diana decides to drive him and his sister to school by a different route from usual, a life-changing chain of events is set into motion. In one careless moment, as the two seconds are being added, something terrible happens, and Byron is the only one to notice.
He eventually confides in his friend, James, and his mother. For the rest of the summer, they grapple with what happened, trying to deal with the guilt they feel. They must also deal with Byron’s father, a banker who works in London and only comes home to their house in the country on weekends. A controlling, unpleasant man, he stifles the once free-spirited Diana and dampens the entire environment of their home.
Perfect also contains another narrative, which is told in alternating chapters. In the second narrative, we meet Jim, a troubled middle-aged man who, because the psychiatric center where he spent most of his life has been shut down, is on his own in the world. Living with intense social anxiety and OCD tendencies in a van by the council estates, he is simply trying to get by without the world swallowing him whole. He gets a job at a shop, where he meets Eileen, a warm (if rather brash) woman who accepts him for who he is.
For most of this book, I just wanted to hug all of the characters… Byron grappling with an icy father, a set of circumstances beyond his maturity level, and his mother coming undone; kind-hearted Diana with her desire to be free from her jealous husband; and poor Jim with his crippling fear of the world around him. These characters are really well drawn, and I cared about them more than I usually care about characters in books.
I had a few problems with the plot, but it’s hard to describe them without using spoilers. I’ll just say that I thought this book would have worked just as well without the added seconds aspect. The only purpose they seem to serve is to give Byron a way to misplace blame for the accident; he thinks it wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for the two seconds, but I think this is just childish desperation. There were also a few loose ends that I would have liked to see tied up better.
Although I had a few quibbles with Perfect, I really enjoyed it for the most part. The characters are well written, the writing is brimming with empathy, and I loved the alternating narratives. It was fun to predict how the stories were related — the connection isn’t revealed until the very end of the book — and Joyce was pretty sneaky with the clues! Overall, this is an enjoyable book that covers the emotional spectrum from devastating to heartwarming.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher via TLC Book Tours in exchange for my honest review.
The publishers of this book have kindly offered a copy of Perfect to give away. To enter, click the Rafflecopter link below. Please note that this giveaway is only open to US residents. This giveaway will be open until 12 a.m. Dec. 31.