Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Book Review: Perfect Little World by Kevin Wilson

From the back of the book: When Isabelle Poole meets Dr. Preston Grind, she’s fresh out of high school, pregnant with her art teacher's baby, and totally on her own. Izzy knows she can be a good mother but without any money or relatives to help, she’s left searching.

Dr. Grind, an awkwardly charming child psychologist, has spent his life studying family, even after tragedy struck his own.  Now, with the help of an eccentric billionaire, he has the chance to create a “perfect little world”—to study what would happen when ten children are raised collectively, without knowing who their biological parents are.  He calls it The Infinite Family Project and he wants Izzy and her son to join.

This attempt at a utopian ideal starts off promising, but soon the gentle equilibrium among the families disintegrates: unspoken resentments between the couples begin to fester; the project's funding becomes tenuous; and Izzy’s growing feelings for Dr. Grind make her question her participation in this strange experiment in the first place.


Recently, I joined Book of the Month Club (that's an affiliate link, FYI). Mostly, I've stuck to their recommendations for my monthly selection, but this time I eschewed their recommendation because as much as I enjoy dystopian literature, this time I thought reading about a utopia actually sounded pretty nice.

After reading the synopsis, I almost anticipated that this novel would be narrated from the points of view of different members of the Infinite Family Project, but it was actually confined to just two perspectives--Izzy and Dr. Grind. I understand that choice and ultimately think it was a smart one, though I do wish as the reader we'd gotten to know some of the other adults a bit more intimately than we did. Still, I really enjoyed this one overall. I thought that the characters were strong, the concept was strong, and the book was resolved appropriately in a way that felt like it rang true with my experiences of how dynamics can evolve and change within extended families.

I almost never say this, but I actually thought this particular book would have benefited from being a bit longer because it would have allowed for more character development and more in depth examination of the "experiment" and its consequences, both good and bad. I feel like I saw where Perfect Little World could have gone, and it made it 9/10ths of the way there. It ended in a perfectly acceptable way, and I enjoyed the journey there very much. But I can't help but think that if the author had pushed himself for just that extra little bit, he would have arrived at a destination that was even more spectacular than where he landed. The only way that I can think to explain it is that the sunset when you've hiked and *almost* reached the top of a mountain is beautiful, but the sunset when you *have* reached the top of a mountain is breathtaking. Perfect Little World reached beautiful, but it didn't quite reach breathtaking.

I also feel it's worth mentioning that I've seen many reviews compare Perfect Little World to Kevin Wilson's other novel, The Family Fang. I haven't read The Family Fang, so I don't have that bit of context to offer as part of my review, but all on its own, I definitely think Perfect Little World is worth a read!

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