In 1972, to balance the clock with the movement of earth, two seconds were added to time. Eleven-year-old Byron Hemming found out about the two seconds from his friend James at school, and though he assured him it wasn’t a big deal, Byron worried about what effect these two extra seconds would have. Until the day it happened and Byron's life changed forever.
His mother Diana was driving Byron and his younger sister Lucy to school when Byron saw the second hand of his watch go backwards. It was at that moment that the accident happened and their perfect world shattered. As Byron and James tried to make it right, things began to spiral out of control even more.
Perfect is the latest book from Rachel Joyce, author of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. A tender and heart-breaking novel, it is a story of the human spirit, the quest for perfection, how much control we really have over life, and the effects one moment can have on the rest of your life.
The book goes back and forth between 1972 and the present time. In 1972 we meet Byron, James, and Diana, see the fall-out from the accident and watch how they all move forward in the aftermath. In the present time we are introduced to Jim, a man with crippling OCD who has spent most of his life in a mental health institution. It isn’t clear how the two are connected.
I was really looking forward to this book given how much I enjoyed Harold Fry. But I must admit that I didn’t take to this novel right away. About 100 pages in I considered giving up. For me, the story was just moving at a pace that was a little too slow for me. But, after reading the reviews of a few other bloggers who really liked it, I decided to continue reading. And I’m glad I did.
I liked how this story was told through the eyes of Byron, rather than through the eyes of adults. There is a sense of innocence that only a child can bring to it. As well, you are able to see the effects of the moment more through Byron than I think you would an adult. Joyce does a fantastic job of developing all of the characters, though I especially took to the character of Diana. Her story was very emotional and I think readers of all walks of life will understand her.
The plot did unfold a little slow for me and like many other readers I found that it was the story of Jim that made it this way for me. I think maybe if there had been a little less of his story it would have kept the book moving.
However, when everything comes together at the end it is a truly incredible ending that will stick with you for a long time. For all of my hesitations at the beginning, I can truly recommend this novel.