Perfect: A Novel - Rachel Joyce

I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

What happens when the powers that be decide to add two seconds to time in the summer of 1972? How does that decision affect everyday people? Two boys, Byron and James, have to live with the events, and the consequences of their actions in the months afterward for the rest of their lives.

This book was really interesting and I did not see the twist at the end coming.  That being said, it took a while to get started.  The action starts off fairly quickly, introducing the characters, the issue of two added seconds, and the accident that results from their addition

even though you find out later that the seconds weren't added when James said they would be, and that Byron caused his mom's car accident by shoving his watch in her face while she was driving.

(show spoiler)

 

After setting up the issue, the story jumps forward to the present, which is where it starts to stall.  It introduces Jim as an adult, living with the aftermath of the summer of 1972 and its unintended consequences.  The story then starts to alternate between Jim's adult world and Byron's childhood world.  There's a lot of detail and world-building going on, and it's very well written, but it seems like it's going nowhere for a long time.  I stalled for quite a while around the 25% mark because it was really hard to see how this was going to come together.

The good news is that it does come together.  The set-up is a slow burn, where the reader can see a coming disaster (though you're not quite sure what it is), even though the characters can't.  There's a building sense of dread as the summer goes on, and it pays off in the final chapters of the book.  The twist ending was, I thought, particularly well done.  I can usually figure out surprises, but I didn't see this one coming at all because it was set up so well.

The author did a really good job of including OCD details into James' childhood story, which made it easy to believe that he ended up at the mental institution as an adult.  The added details of James' mom leaving "Jim" at the hospital draws you further into that picture.  It's only in the last few chapters that you learn that Byron has taken on the identity of "Jim" as a coping mechanism after he witnesses his mom's death and his already distant dad abandons him to boarding school with no therapy.  The reunion between Byron and James as adults really threw me - I had to read it a couple of times to make sure my eyes weren't deceiving me.

(show spoiler)



Overall, I liked this book.  It was worth sticking through the part that lagged to get to the payoff at the end.